Rule Britannia- Part 1
On March 18, a combined British and French naval attack on the Turkish defenses of the Dardanelles results in three ships being lost to mines. Some within the fleet believe the entire action should be broken off, while others believe a second attempt may have more success. Poor weather the next day delays a second attack, and in a meeting on board the fleet flagship, the decision is made to continue the offensive.
On March 23, the fleet resumes its attack. Immediately, it is noticed that fire from the Turkish forts is much slacker than it had been earlier. The Allied fleet had been unaware that the Turks were almost out of ammunition. Soon, the fire virtually comes to an end. Unhindered, the fleet minesweepers are able to clear paths through the minefields, and the battleships blow the Turkish forts to pieces at point blank range.
The next day, the fleet steams easily into the Sea of Marmara. The German battlecrusier Goeben is destroyed by the battleship Queen Elizabeth, which had been brought along for the purpose. On the evening of March 24, the fleet anchors off Constantinople. With the city in a panic, the cowed Turkish government has no choice but to surrender.
Nationalist Turkish officers refuse to acknowledge the surrender and continue the fight in the Middle East and Anatolia. But being unable to cross the Dardanelles, there is little they can do against the Allies for the time being.
Throughout April, the Balkan nations enter the war on the Allied side, encouraged by the Allied success at Gallipoli. Greece joins the fighting on April 11, Bulgaria two days after that and Romania a week later. Joined by a large British contingent, these nations create a new front against the Central Powers. At the same time, Italy joins the Allies and attacks Austria, creating yet another front.
Throughout 1915, the Germans and Austrians find themselves under heavy pressure from all sides, completely without allies and with a tight naval blockade by the Royal Navy gradually strangling its economy. Furthermore, with regular convoys of supplies and ammunition reaching the Russians through the now-open Dardanelles, the Russian war effort gradually becomes more effective.
The success of the Gallipoli operation and the capture of Constantinople has given added credibility to the faction in the British Cabinet who oppose the dispatch of large British forces to the Western front. As a result, the Western Front is left mostly to the French, while the British concentrate on the naval war. The British army sends contingents to fight in France, Italy and the Balkans, but does not commit a single large army to any particular place. It prefers to fight the war in its traditional manner, limited ground operations combined with a naval blockade and economic aid to its allies. As a result, it largely avoids the massive casualties being suffered by the other major powers.
With its forces stretched along four fronts and its economy being strangled by a persistent blockade, Germany gambles on a single decisive offensive on the Western Front, designed to break the Allied lines and capture Paris. In late February, German forces hurl themselves against the French lines at Verdun. Both sides take heavy losses in a gruesome battle. But the French lines hold.
Revolution breaks out throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire as various nationalistic groups take to the streets, demanding that the war be ended and that their national rights be recognized. The Austro-Hungarian armies at the front dissolve, allowing Russian armies from the east, Allied armies from the south and Italian forces from the west to advance against minimum resistance.
On August 27, Austria-Hungary sues for peace. At once, Allied armies race into the territory to occupy strategic positions, while badly-needed German divisions are dispatched from the Western and Eastern fronts to block any offensive into Germany itself. The net is tightening.
In desperation, the Germans decide to commit their High Seas Fleet to a do-or-die battle against the Royal Navy. On September 23, a massive battle takes place off the Yorkshire coast. When the smoke clears from the Battle of the North Sea, the greatest naval battle of all time, the Royal Navy has suffered heavy losses. But the High Seas Fleet has been utterly destroyed.
In the wake of the series of disastrous defeats, demonstrators take to the streets of German cities, demanding an immediate end to the fighting. With no options left, the German Empire sues for peace on October 16. A cease-fire immediately goes into effect. German forces withdraw to their own territory and French and Belgian armies occupy the left bank of the Rhine.
Although the war lasted only slightly more than two years, it was the bloodiest conflict in European history, up to that point. France, Germany and Russia had each lost over a million men. The British, having avoided most of the trench warfare which characterized the fighting on the Western and Eastern fronts, had suffered the least among the major combatants.
In the meantime, chaos is sweeping the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the fall of Constantinople and the collapse of the central government. Armenian nationalists have set up an independent state in eastern Anatolia, with Russian military protection. In the Arab lands, various tribes and local rulers are attempting to gain control, with remnants of the Turkish army caught up in the disorder.
A peace conference is called in Paris to dictate the terms of peace. Much haggling is done over the terms, while several conscientious diplomats on all sides wish to ensure that no such conflict can ever occur again.
Eventually, the Treaty of Paris is signed on May 2. It major terms were:
At the insistence of the army, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates the throne in favor of his son, who is installed as Kaiser Wilhelm III. Many within the German political establishment, however, are demanding a new constitution which would curtail the powers of the monarchy.
On September 8, elections are held in Alsace-Lorraine and the population favors a return to France. This takes effect on December 1.
The British Empire emerges from the war as the strongest nation in the world. France, Russia and Germany have each suffered very heavy losses in the Great War and their economies were heavily damaged by direct attack, occupation of territory and blockade. Britain, too, suffered grievous losses, but nothing on the scale of its Continental neighbors. And while Britain spent huge amounts of money to finance the war, its industrial strength has never been higher.
Furthermore, the Royal Navy is again the unquestioned supreme power on the world’s oceans. Its reputation has soared during the war and the Treaty of Paris required Germany is dismantle what remained of the High Seas Fleet. Because of this, the British Empire emerged from the war as the world’s only superpower.
Despite her strengths, the postwar world presents serious challenges. The issue of Irish Home Rule, effectively put on hold during the war, emerges again as a serious issue once the war and its immediate aftermath are past. The same is true for India, where the Indian National Congress is agitating for greater autonomy, particularly in light of the Indian contribution to victory during the war.
The immediate problem facing the British, however, is the situation in the Middle East. With the abdication of Mehmet IV, all semblance of central government in the Ottoman Empire has fallen. In Palestine and Mesopotamia, Arab tribes are battling with the remnants of the Turkish Army, as various Turkish generals set themselves up as warlords. In the midst of all this, Jewish settlements in Palestine defend themselves as best they can.
With substantial military forces already in the area and under pressure from domestic and world opinion, Britain orders its troops to advance into the Arab territories and restore order. By the end of 1918, virtually all the former Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire are de facto under British control (the French also send in some forces). Palestine is placed under British military administration, while Syria and Mesopotamia are governed by local Arab sheiks in cooperation with British military forces.
The situation in the Middle East remains chaotic, but order gradually emerges in certain places. The Turkish Republic is declared in central Anatolia by a group of nationalist officers. An independent Armenian state is already functioning in eastern Anatolia. Arab regions in Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Mesopotamia, however, remain in varying degrees of disorder.
The situation in Arabia is also tense. There is substantial inter-service rivalry among the British. Officials in London favor an alliance with the Hashemite dynasty, which presently controls Mecca and Medina. The Indian Political Service, however, favors the al-Saud family. Eventually, due to the fact that the Hashemite family seems to be in a stronger position and because the al-Saud family seem more inclined to religious fanaticism, the views of the Foreign Office in London prevail. The British ally themselves with the Hashemite dynasty and assist them in stabilizing the Hejaz.
The status of Constantinople causes a great deal of controversy. Russia demands that it be handed over to them, while the Turkish republic insists that it be restored to Turkey. The Greeks, who have taken control of the eastern Aegean coast, also want it, citing its long history as a Greek city and its large Greek population.
Nathaniel Curzon, the British foreign secretary, is under heavy pressure on the Constantinople issue. Churchill, having been elevated from the First Lord of the Admiralty to War Secretary, reinforces the garrison of Constantinople and makes plans to oppose any Turkish attempt to seize the city by force, working with the Greeks as he does so. The dispute drags on throughout the year.
In Germany, the pressures of public opinion and continued unrest in the cities results in a new constitution. While retaining the monarchy and the Hohenzollern dynasty, most political power is taken away from the Kaiser and placed in the hands of the Reichstag itself. The Kaiser is only permitted certain reserve powers, similar to the position of the British monarch.
Demands for reform in Russia are met with a harsh government crackdown, supported by reactionary members of the armed forces.
Attempts by the Turkish Republic to recapture the Aegean coast are defeated by the Greeks, who are supported by the British. In a counteroffensive, the Greeks are able to seize the Asian coastline of the Dardanelles and Bosporus as well. Because of the Turkish offensive, which the British considered very ungentlemanly as negotiations over Constantinople were still ongoing, the British decide to take any return of Turkish territory in Europe off the table.
Lord Curzon works out a settlement of the Constantinople question. The city itself, with a substantial amount of surrounding territory, is ceded to Greece, who celebrate joyfully. To assuage the Bulgarians, the remainder of Thrace is ceded to them. And to satisfy Russian sensibilities, Curzon persuaded the Greeks to sign a treaty with the Russians by which the Greeks undertook never to limit of hinder the amount of Russian shipping, commercial or military, which passes through the Dardanelles.
The Russians were irritated, but eventually decided that it was better for the Dardanelles to be in Greek hands than Turkish ones. Although, during the Great War, the British had discussed the possibility of Russia gaining control of the straits when the war was over, they were not keen on seeing the Russians have an easy outlet to the Mediterranean. Indeed, the British had worked for two centuries to prevent just such an occurrence. The Russians, having suffered heavily during the war and facing mounting internal problems, were not keen to become the open enemy of the British.
In what becomes known as the Second Decembrist Revolt, two Russian army regiments mutiny in St. Petersburg when rumors circulate that their pay and rations are to be cut. Revolutionary-inclined officers take control of the mutiny and use it to call for a constitutional monarchy. In response, Czarist troops surround the barracks and blow them to pieces with artillery (destroying much of the surrounding area in the process).
The Grand Duke Alexei, heir to the Russian throne, dies of complications from his hemophilia. His mother, the Czarina Alexandra, is so distraught that she commits suicide. Nicholas II, overcoming his own intense grief, orders the self-proclaimed holy man Rasputin to be executed, as he blames him for his wife’s death. This is done immediately (with great difficulty; the firing squad had to fire three volleys before he died). The Czar’s younger brother, Grand Duke Michael, becomes the heir to the throne.
In the November elections in the United States, Republican Frank Lowden is elected, sweeping nearly every state outside of the South. Previously, he had been the governor of Illinois and had made a name for himself for his efficiently-run administration. The main issues of the campaign were economic and foreign affairs were scarcely mentioned at all. The American people are delighted to have avoided the Great War and remain committed to isolationism.
Parliamentary elections in Britain result in a hung Parliament, with the Irish Parliamentary Party holding the balance of power between the Liberals and Tories. David Lloyd George, the leader of the Liberals, agrees to a coalition with the IPP. Together, they have a strong parliamentary majority.
The IPP insists on an implementation of the Home Rule Act of 1914 as its price for participation. The act, which would set up a separate Irish Parliament that would have control over domestic Irish affairs, had received Royal Assent in 1914, but its implementation had been interrupted by the war and its aftermath.
When news of this political development reaches Ulster, there are Unionist riots in the streets. The Ulster Volunteer Force threatens to resist the new law by force. They also point to their devotion to Britain during the Great War, claiming that the Irish Catholics were sympathetic to Germany (which, except for a very few fanatics, is false). Lloyd George attempts to work out a compromise by which the Ulster counties would be excluded from the jurisdiction of the new parliament.
The strong measures the British police and military take against the Ulster Volunteer Force impress many Irish Catholics. The radical group Sinn Fein loses much of its popular appeal as a result.
Palestine officially comes under British military protection and appoints of military governor, who rules with the help of a joint executive made up of Jewish and Arab members. Syria, and Mesopotamia remain under British military occupation.
Low level clashes take place between Turkey and Armenia, as each side seeks to gain strategic territory along their border. The Turks are unwilling to press the matter too far, however, because of their weakened state and the possibility of Russian intervention.
In India, the Indian National Congress engages in a number of non-violent protests, calling for greater Indian participation in the government of the Raj and a commitment on the part of Parliament that India will eventually be granted Dominion status.
The success of nationalist uprisings in the former Austrian Empire inspires Polish radical groups, who launch a series of non-violent demonstrations in Warsaw, Krakow and other cities. The Russian government responds harshly and exiles many ringleaders to Siberia.
Elections to the Irish Parliament are held, with Ulster being exempt from the process (temporarily as far as the IPP is concerned, permanently are far as the Unionists are concerned). Unsurprisingly, the IPP wins an overwhelming majority of seats, with only a handful going to the radical Sinn Fein group. As Sinn Fein refuses to take an oath of loyalty to the King and therefore cannot take their seats, the IPP has an effective monopoly on power in the Irish Parliament.
Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Secretary, invites members of the Indian National Congress to come to London for a conference. Many Indians distrust Curzon because of some of his actions during his tenure as Viceroy of India, but others respect him highly. The conference is only to discuss ideas and not intended to initiate any radical new policies. Churchill, now Home Secretary, is disgusted with the very idea of meeting with the Congress Party and considers resigning from Cabinet in protest until Lloyd George talks him out of it.
Despite its unrivaled military position, the British are under heavy pressure economically. American and German industry is outperforming that of Britain and even the French are catching up (although the French are heavily in debt to the British). In the fall, a panel of British and Dominion economists and ministers is convened in London to discuss the possibility of greater economic cooperation in the face of foreign competition, with the possibility of resurrecting the old idea of “Imperial Preference” in tariff policies.
Despite its disappointing industrial performance, Britain retains its lead in the financial sphere. “The City” in London remains the unquestioned center of world finance, with Wall Street in New York a distant second.
The Anglo-Persian Oil Company continues to develop the oil infrastructure in Persia, although there is substantial opposition to this among the Persian ruling class. Russian oil output in Baku continues to be the main source of supply in the world, although production from parts of the United States is catching up.
In Egypt, the British arrange for a group of liberal political and business figures to write a constitution for the new state (its nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire having obviously ceased with the abdication of the Sultan). Overtly-nationalist men are excluded from the discussions and the British are intent on retaining effective control over the foreign and defense policies of Egypt. Indeed, there are some among the British who hope to find some constitutional means of tying Egypt directly to the British Empire.
In South Africa, many Afrikaners are immigrating into the newly-acquired territory of Southwest Africa, with the idea of eventually setting up a government independent of the Union of South Africa.
With rebellious Arab tribes making difficulties in Morocco, Spain and France organize a joint expedition against them. Although losses are higher than expected, the rebellion is soon crushed.
The Irish Parliament convenes in Dublin. According to the Home Rule Act, it will have complete control over various devolved issues in Ireland, including education, law enforcement, local government, health and human services, economic development (excluding fisheries), sports and the arts and other such issues. Irish MPs continue to be elected to the Parliament in Westminster, but the IPP ensures that they vote only on those issues which effect Ireland (i.e. they would not vote on an issue regarding the English education system).
As expected, Sinn Fein MIPs refuse to take their seats, an action which most Irishmen consider foolish and counterproductive. The Ulster counties do not participate and their affairs continue to be the domain of the Westminster Parliament. Whether this state of affairs is temporary or permanent is allowed to remain ambiguous.
The India Conference convened by Lord Curzon ends in March and the Indian National Congress members return home. Various ideas were debated and discussed, including the eventual creation of an Indian assembly, half its members being appointed by London and the other half elected in India, with Muslim guaranteed proportional representation. The Indians state strongly that their demands for self-government must be moved forward but also denied that they wished to separate India from the British Empire.
At an Imperial Conference in London, Lloyd George met with the Prime Ministers of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The notion of Imperial Preference, by which the Dominions of the Empire would have free trade with one another but coordinate tariffs against other nations, was the main item on the agenda. Not only was this expected to be economically beneficial to all, but it would serve to tie the Empire more tightly together. The opinion was also expressed that the constitutional framework of the Empire should be put in better order.
The Conservatives rally against Imperial Preference, maintaining their devotion to Free Trade. Their repeated speeches on the subject, which warn of economic disaster and increased tensions with other nations, help raise their party’s popularity. In two by-elections that year, Tories oust Liberal MPs.
A long-standing conspiracy in Poland comes to the fore. On October 18, Polish patriots blow up a Russian ammunition dump in Warsaw, signaling the start of what they hope will be a general insurrection. Many of their co-conspirators have backed out at the last minute, however, and most of the remaining attacks are uncoordinated and ineffective. Several Russian soldiers and many Polish civilians are killed, however, and small bands begin wandering the Polish countryside, claiming to be fighting for an independent Poland.
Germany, seeing an opportunity to weaken or at least embarrass their Russian neighbor, offers to mediate a truce, which enrages Czar Nicholas II. Russian forces crack down hard on Polish dissidents and German and Russian diplomats exchange angry words with one another.
France, increasingly disturbed by the reactionary actions of Russia and fearing the Germans less since the end of the Great War, begin to back away from their alliance with Russia. Outwardly cordial meetings are held in Strasbourg between the French President and the Kaiser.
Exhausted and in ill health, Lord Curzon resigns from the Cabinet. His place as Foreign Secretary is taken by Austen Chamberlain, son of the great Joseph Chamberlain, who had come over to the Liberals from the Liberal Unionists. His main objective is to push through a policy of Imperial Preference to help bind the Empire more tightly together. Prime Minister Lloyd George, previously lukewarm on the concept, is gradually coming around to favoring it.
With solid economic conditions and a generally stable geopolitical situation, the popularity of Lloyd George remains high. However, many members of the Liberal Party (among them Winston Churchill) are chaffing at the bit, seeing his long tenure as a threat to their own ambitions to one day reside in 10 Downing Street.
In Africa, the construction of the monumental Cape-to-Cairo Railway begins.
The Polish question persists, as Polish rebels (“freedom fighters” according to the Western press, “terrorists” according to the Russians) carry out scattered attacks throughout Poland. Russian military forces maintain a policy of very harsh repression, under orders from Czar Nicholas II. Within Russia itself, many liberal members of the intelligentsia are disturbed by the actions of the army in Poland, but are not given much opportunity to express their views.
Germany sees the possibility of an independent Poland (preferably a German satellite state) as a potential buffer state between them and the Russians. As such, it begins secretly training, arming and financing the Polish rebel movement, as well as allowing sanctuary to Polish leaders.
In China, the central government is Peking is unable to exercise much authority over the country, as local strongmen and warlords become increasingly bold. The Japanese watch and wait.
In the United States, Republican President Frank Lowden wins re-election with 55% of the vote. In general, the mood of the Americans is to focus on maintaining a strong economy while remaining aloof from European issues.
After another conference of Dominion Prime Ministers, the decision is made to enact Imperial Preference. In March, a Bill Regulating Tariffs Among the British Dominions is pushed through the Westminster Parliament. Despite some opposition in Canada (which worries over its trade relations with the United States) the Dominions all pass enabling legislation by the end of the year. The Council for Imperial Trade is created to oversee Imperial trade policies and is based in London.
The legislation creates a massive free trade zone among the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. At the same time, tariffs are imposed for the entry of goods into the Empire from other countries. The effect is to tie the trade of Britain and the Dominions to one another. It becomes cheaper for the Dominions to import manufactured goods from Great Britain than from Germany, France or America. It also becomes much easier for the Dominions to export their goods to Britain. The effects are almost immediately obvious.
Among British Tories, reaction is mixed. Many hold true to Free Trade and are furious at the success of the Lloyd George administration. However, another faction of the Tories begins to shift away from this position, believing that any policy which strengthens the Empire is a good one.
Germany and France sign a non-aggression pact, which will be up for review in ten years. The treaty also seeks favorable trade relations between the two, partially in response to the tariffs imposed on their exports by the British.
In September, the so-called “Windhoek Incident” takes place in the former German colony of South-West Africa. German settlers who had remained in the colony after it was turned over to the British form an alliance with newly-arrived Boers, and the two groups launch a rather amateurish rebellion against the authority of the British Empire. Declaring an independent republic and appealing for foreign recognition, they quickly are dealt with. A small garrison of Royal Marines keeps control of the colony’s single port of Walvis Bay, while South African forces lead by Jan Smuts enter the colony and quickly restore order.
The ringleaders are incarcerated briefly, then released after promising not to attempt such nonsense again. The incident prompts the South African government to ask London whether it might be a good idea to incorporate the former German colony directly into the Union of South Africa. The Secretary of State for the Colonies puts the matter to the Cabinet, which prevaricates.
Tellingly, the government of Germany makes no comment on the Windhoek Incident. They do not wish to antagonize the British in case relations with Russia take a turn for the worse. The lack of any official support for the Germans in South-West Africa, however, is much opposed by right-wing elements within Germany and becomes something of a scandal.
Having achieved his main goal of Imperial Preference, Foreign Secretary Chamberlain now hopes to work out a proper settlement, or at least the beginnings of one, in India. He plans on moving forward with the idea of an Indian assembly, as outlined by Curzon’s meeting with members of the Indian National Congress.
The issue of the Indian Assembly quickly becomes extremely divisive within the Cabinet. Lloyd George attempts to remain above the fray, while Churchill (now Chancellor of the Exchequer) is bitterly opposed to the idea. Chamberlain and Churchill find themselves as the leader of two factions of the Cabinet, which argue repeatedly and threaten to split the Liberal Party.
In the midst of all this, the Westminster Parliament and the South African Parliament pass enabling legislation to allow South-West Africa to be incorporated directly into the Union of South Africa.
Afghan tribes raid along the Northwest Frontier, leading to a large punitive expedition by the British Indian Army, reinforced by a few British regiments. Lasting several weeks, much fighting takes place until the tribes are brought to heal. It is the largest British military campaign since the Great War and results in several newspaper headlines.
Comforted by its non-aggression pact with France and with violence continuing in Poland, Germany sends an official note of protest to St. Petersburg over the treatment of civilians in Poland. It calls again for a negotiated settlement of the Polish question. Russia angrily rejects the idea and, in response to the Franco-German non-aggression pact, officially terminates its alliance with France. The British hold discussions with both the German and Russian ambassadors in London, anxious to avoid any open breach of the peace.
In Central America, U.S. Marines are regularly in action in support of pro-American regimes and protecting U.S. business interests.
In the Middle East, oil production in Persia continues to accelerate. As the Persian oil industry is under de facto British control, it is seen by British strategists as a critical check to previous American and Russian domination of the oil industry. As the last of the coal-fired vessels of the Royal Navy are being phased out and replaced by petroleum-fueled ships, the British come to see the Middle East as one of the crucial strategic areas of the world.
In response to this, Britain signs treaties of friendship and cooperation with the small sheikdoms in the Gulf States, including Kuwait. These provide for military protection (secret clauses include pledges of protection from internal unrest) and economic assistance, in return for basing rights for the Royal Navy and the right to search for and develop oil fields.
In Arabia, fighting continues between the al-Saud clan, which controls Riyadh and much of the east, and the Hashemite dynasty, which control the Hejaz, including Mecca and Medina. The British have supported the Hashemites in the past, hoping and expecting that they will defeat the Saudis. The British offer to greatly increase their support to the Hashemites in exchange for signing a treaty similar to the ones the British have already concluded with the other Gulf States. The Hashemites agree, believe that signing such a treaty will cost them nothing, as they have no reason to think there is any oil in Arabia. Soon afterwards, a steady flow of British arms and ammunition is flowing to the Hashemites, giving them the upper hand in their struggle against the al-Saud.
Farther north, Mesopotamia (now known as “Iraq”), Syria and Kurdistan have come under the control of local strongmen and tribal leaders who took power in the wake of the Turkish collapse. There is still a great deal of disorder, however. The British attempt to negotiate similar treaties with these states, but are frustrated by unreasonable demands. Furthermore, Russian agents are attempting to undermine the British position in the area.
The British Cabinet puts the Indian Assembly Bill on the Parliamentary agenda. In response, Churchill resigns from the Cabinet and crosses the aisle to join the Conservative faction. Several other members of the Cabinet resign, and although none but Churchill cross the aisle, it is sufficient to bring down the government. A vote of no-confidence passes, forcing new elections.
Churchill, who quickly assumes leadership of the Unionist faction of the Tories (having come to support Imperial Preference over Free Trade), proves to be the main focus of the campaign. When voters go to the polls on March 23, the Tories win a convincing majority.
A struggle now takes place within the Conservative Party. The public clearly expects Churchill- popularly known as “The Man Who Won the War”- to become Prime Minister. Stanley Baldwin, the head of the Conservative Party, clearly feels that the job should be his, as Churchill had only joined the Tories in the weeks prior to the election. A compromise is eventually worked out: Baldwin becomes Prime Minister, while Churchill returns to his position as Chancellor with the understanding that he will become Prime Minister upon Baldwin’s resignation.
The election results deeply disappoint the Indian National Congress, which now debates the best course forward. Some wish to engage in a campaign of civil disobedience, but this is dismissed by most Congress leaders, who feel that it will likely be counterproductive. Since the Liberal Party, which could return to power in the next election, seems to be on their side, Congress determined that the best way forward would be solidify ties with the Liberal Party and attempt to get the best deal they can from the Conservatives.
Baldwin recognizes that some gesture must be made to Congress to avoid the possibility of serious unrest in the Raj. As a result, with Churchill remaining peevishly silent, the Government of India Act of 1927 is pushed through Parliament. It expands the role of the elected regional assemblies from being purely advisory to having genuine authority over local affairs. Proportional representation guarantees that Muslims will not be dominated by Hindus. The Act also specifies Dominion status for India as an eventual goal.
Churchill is disgusted but, short of resigning from public life entirely, there is nothing he can do about it. Going back to the Liberals would make him a laughingstock, so he focuses on his role as Chancellor and, in the opinion of many, acts like a child whose toy had been stolen.
The Indian National Congress is surprised by how far the Act went, although they would have liked a fully-elected Indian Assembly as had been intended by the Liberal Plan. Still, Congress decides to work with the British rather than against them, and soon dominates most of the elected regional assemblies. The Muslim League is the other major political force.
The issue of Indian self-government dominated British attention throughout the year, but other critical events were also taking place. In Arabia, the Hashemites capture Riyadh from the Saudis, greatly aided by British equipment and ammunition. It seems that the ultimate victory of the Hashemites is only a matter of time.
The Polish Question continues to fester, straining relations between the Germans and the Russians. Only the memory of the Great War, with its horrible casualties and tremendous destruction, keeps the two from going to war. The Russians are aware that the Germans are supplying Polish rebels, but are unwilling to go public with the information for fear that it will force them into a war they don’t want.
Right-wingers in Germany, having made the “abandonment” of the colonists in South-West Africa a major issue the previous year, are now loudly calling for the government to openly support the Polish rebels. The Poles are lionized in the German right-wing press as freedom fighters and “knights defending Europe from Russian barbarism.” With France no longer an ally of Russia and Britain unlikely to get involved, many in Germany feel that the time is right to attack Russia and thus make up some of the losses they had suffered from the Great War.
In March, the Polish Question explodes in two dramatic events. On the 12th, the leader of the Polish rebels, Jozef Pilsudski, makes an impassioned plea for help from the “great nations of the West” which is broadcast throughout Western Europe. He announces the creation of a Polish government-in-exile, with himself as President and calls on the world to recognize it as the genuine government of the Polish people.
On March 20th, far more seriously, Czar Nicholas II is assassinated by an ethnic Pole who had formerly been a Russian Army sniper. Grand Duke Michael is immediately named as the next Czar, and in a rage he orders the hometown of the assassin, Lublin, to be razed to the ground.
As Russian army units approach Lublin to carry out the order, a popular uprising takes place throughout Poland, with civilians taking the streets and setting up barricades. Ordered to take harsh measures, many Russian army units begin to refuse to obey orders and return to their barracks on their own initiative.
While all this is happening in Poland, anti-Polish riots break out in Russian cities, with large crowds attacking the businesses and houses owned by Poles. The Russian police do not stand in their way and in many cases even join the rioters. But very soon the anti-Polish riots turn into simple mob violence, with people breaking into warehouses and shops in order to steal food and other items. Liquor is also stolen and further fuels the disorder.
The rest of the world looks on, stunned, as Russia seems on the verge of falling into complete anarchy. Czar Michael orders solid units of the Russian army to use whatever force is necessary to put down the internal disruptions within Russia. Over the next week, thousands of people are killed as Russian soldiers brutally restore order in St. Petersburg, Moscow and other cities hit by the rioting.
In Poland, Pilsudski himself arrives in Warsaw, which has fallen to Polish rebel units. He strives to organize a proper defense force and working government, knowing that a Russian retaliation is soon to come. By the end of July, Polish forces control Warsaw, Danzig, and much of western Poland, while military units still loyal to Russia control Krawkow, Lublin and other cities.
Germany immediately recognizes the independence of Poland, which prompts a Russian declaration on war on September 15. The Polish War of Independence has well and truly begun. German army units move into Poland and take up positions to defend Poland against a Russian attack.
Russian reinforcements pour into Poland to counter the German move. Throughout October, a fierce battle rages for control of Krakow in the south, with both sides suffering heavy losses. Aided by Polish resistance units carrying out sabotage within the city, the German and Polish troops eventually push the Russians out, forcing them to retreat to the northeast.
Other nations declare their neutrality. While not exactly pleased with the outbreak of hostilities, the British and the French believe that the Russians have only themselves to blame, as they had repeatedly refused to enter into reasonable negotiations with the Polish rebels. Britain and France jointly declare that their main objective is to ensure that the conflict does not spread.
Naturally, the Polish War fills the headlines during the year. In British domestic issues, Churchill surprises many with a strong commitment to worker’s rights, although this causes many Conservatives to view their returned comrade with suspicion. He also ensures that sufficient funding is provided for the Royal Navy, this policy being given added emphasis by the outbreak of the Polish War.
Baldwin proves to be a rather lackluster Prime Minister and at times it almost seems that Churchill is running the government. Chamberlain continues an effective tenure as Foreign Secretary, coordinating certain policies with the French vis-à-vis the Germans and Russians.
In American Presidential elections, Republican Herbert Hoover defeats Democrat Al Smith. Republicans also made gains in the House and Senate. With few major issues disturbing the scene in the United States and the economy humming along rather nicely, there seems to be little likelihood of Republican dominance ending anytime soon.
In Poland, Russia launches a large-scale offensive in an effort to drive the Germans out and restore Russian rule. Warsaw is cut off by a Russian pincer movement, but the Polish garrison inside holds out. Losses are high on both sides. Although the Russians have a substantial numerical superiority, the Germans are vastly better equipped and have far superior air power.
Within Russia itself, right-wing elements are rapidly gaining influence throughout the country. Feeling betrayed by the Western Allies, there is a wave of nationalism and xenophobia. Czar Michael is pressured to move against leftists and to appoint only hard-core reactionaries to official positions. There is also increasing anti-Semitism throughout the country.
World opinion is almost wholly on the side of the Polish-German alliance. Indeed, many volunteer units of other nationalities are formed and sent to fight in Poland. This is particularly true for ethnic groups from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, who see the Polish struggle for independence as similar to their own, earlier struggle.
The British hold their fleet in readiness and maintain, with the French, the determination that the conflict cannot be allowed to spread. The German government presses the two nations to recognize Polish independence, but they prevaricate, not wishing a complete breach with Russia.
In Arabia, the Hashemite forces inflict a final defeat on the al-Saud clan, solidifying their control over the entire region. Hussein bin Ali, the Hashemite Sharif of Mecca, declares himself King of Arabia, a claim immediately recognized by the British Foreign Office.
Many Jewish refugees, fleeing the fighting Poland or persecution in Russia, arrive in British-controlled Palestine, where there is already a flourishing Jewish community and a strong Zionist movement.
German and Polish troops began a long counter offensive, aiming to push Russian forces out of Poland altogether. The Siege of Warsaw is lifted and the Russians are unable to stem the tide of the German-Polish advance.
Bowing to reality, and concerned lest the Germans have decisive influence over the post-war Poland, both Britain and France recognize the Pilsudski government in Poland. Russia considers breaking off diplomatic relations, but Czar Michael contents himself with a stern diplomatic protest.
British preparations for possible military action rely a great deal on the Dominions. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are called upon by London to have military forces prepared for dispatch to Europe if Britain becomes involved in the Polish War. This entails a good deal of cost and is the source of some grumbling in the Dominion governments.
There is a substantial economic downturn in Western economies, leading to high unemployment. This, in turn, increases labor unrest. In mid-term elections in the United States, Democrats make substantial gains, although the two chambers are still solidly in Republican hands. In Britain, by-elections result in Labor wins in a seat previously held by the Liberals and another previously held by the Tories, to the astonishment of many.
The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (the British government owning 51% of its stock) begins exploring for oil in Arabia, granted extensive rights to do so by King Hussein, who is grateful for British support against the Saudis.
Continuing high unemployment leads to many Conservatives pushing for a repeal of Imperial Preference and a return to Free Trade. Baldwin and the Unionists, allied on this issue with the Liberals, maintain that the abandonment of Imperial Preference would make things worse, not better, and would lead to disunity in the Empire.
Free Trade Tories, however, demand a vote on the issue. Baldwin and Churchill try to rally as much support as they can, but in the end they are only able to win the vote and keep Imperial Preference by relying on Liberal support. Humiliated and with increasing numbers of Tory MPs calling for Churchill, Baldwin elects to resign. Later that day, King George V formally asks Churchill to take over the leadership of the government.
In Poland, Russian forces are gradually evicted from all Polish territory. Russian forces assemble in Minsk, preparing to launch a counter offensive, although most military observers feel that such an offensive would be doomed to failure.
The Germans now find themselves in a bind. The Poles are all for continuing the offensive into Russian territory, hoping to reestablish the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with its 17th Century borders. They cannot do this without German support. The Germans, however, feel that they have achieved their objective of creating a Polish puppet state allied to Germany. Further advances would likely require several more years of war, with heavy losses and great risk. Besides which, Germany does not want Poland to be too strong.
The German government, communicating through the British, asks the Russians for an armistice. Against the advice of his advisors, Czar Michael accepts. On August 8, the Treaty of Stockholm is signed, bringing the war to an end. A independent Poland is recognized and its security is to be guaranteed by Germany. The borders of Poland are fixed and all claims by the Poles to further Russian territory are rendered void.
The Poles are upset, but reluctantly sign the treaty due to the possibility of losing German support. The most furious of the parties involved,, however, are the reactionary officers of the Russian army, who believe that the “cowardly” peace treaty is the only thing that prevented them from launching a counter offensive and reclaiming the whole of Poland. Czar Michael’s popularity within the army and the Russian nobility drops sharply.
With world attention fixated on the end of the Polish War, Japan begins moving troops into Manchuria, claiming that they are doing so to protect Japanese property and to restore order in a region which the central government of China had little control over.
Under British auspices, a Palestine Legislative Council begins to function in Jerusalem. Made up both of Jews and Muslims (with a few seats also allocated to Christians), it has jurisdiction over internal affairs, while defense and foreign policy remain in the hands of the British. Under international law, the area is still under British military occupation, but no one is in any rush to rectify this situation.
The Prime Ministers of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand arrive for an Imperial Conference with Churchill. Despite the initial misgivings of some, including Churchill himself, it has become apparent that Imperial Preference is working well. The economies of Britain and the Dominions are comparatively strong, the Empire seems more unified than ever and the income from tariffs on imported goods from outside the Empire have gone to fund various social programs which have reduced labor unrest.
Churchill tells the assembled Prime Ministers that following the economic unification of the Empire, the main object should be putting the Empire in a more workable constitutional framework.
Germany and Poland sign a treaty of friendship and mutual defense. At the same time, without consulting Germany, Poland signs commercial treaties with France, Britain and the United States. Observers point out that these commercial treaties were as much about demonstrating Polish independence from German influence as the commercial provisions.
Reactionary officers in the Russian army have become completely disillusioned with the rule of Czar Michael and hold fast to the opinion that they should have continued the fight against the Germans and Poles.
In India, the expanded regional assemblies, most under the leadership of Congress but others under the control of the Muslim League, are proving to be quite successful in their administration of their areas.
In American Presidential elections, Texas Democrat John Nance Garner, running on a platform of economic reform, defeats the Republican Herbert Hoover. The main issues of the campaign were creating jobs and ending Republican corruption. Democrats also gain control of the House of Representatives, although the Republicans maintain control of the Senate. This signals the end of a long period of Republican political dominance and also signals the beginnings of Texan domination of the national Democratic Party.
Japan becomes ever bolder in China, now occupying most of Manchuria and threatening to attack the rest of the country. Increasing Japanese aggressiveness in China worries British and American officials. Churchill decides to reinforce the British Pacific Fleet at Singapore and opens consultations with President Warner (whom he finds rather crude but still likeable) on how best to deal with the situation. Russia, with its own interests in China, is also worried and begins to reinforce its military forces in the Far East.
Churchill pushes for constitutional reforms to establish the political connections between the Dominions and Britain on a stronger basis. The main concept is creation of a governing “Imperial Council” in which Britain and all the Dominions would be represented and which would govern the overall foreign and defense policies of the Empire. Under the plan, Britain and each Dominion would govern their own internal affairs through their independent parliaments.
Many Tories are skeptical, not wanting to give the Dominions a possible check on British foreign policy and not wishing to give up British control. The “Imperial Tories” argue that the Dominions already have a say in British economic policy due to the Trade Council established by Imperial Preference. Churchill finds himself in the risky position of possibly splitting the party.
The Indian National Congress sees the “Imperial Debate” as an opportunity to link the political reforms of the Empire with the issue of Indian self-government. The Liberals and Labour take up this argument as well, saying that Imperial Unity would be meaningless unless the Raj be regarded as a player in the Empire on the same scale with the “White Dominions.” The debate rages throughout the year.
The Kingdom of Arabia complains to the government of Iraq (a shaky republic run mostly by political strongmen) about incursions into its territory. It requests a commitment by the British Empire for support in any conflict with Iraq, which it receives with the reservation that Arabia not engage in any aggressive acts.
Churchill begins to move the Statute of Westminster through the parliamentary process. It would give jurisdiction of Imperial defense and foreign policy to an Imperial Council- made up of representatives from Britain and each of the Dominions. At the same time, it would strengthen the powers of the Imperial Trade Council to regulate international trade.
The Liberals promise to support the Statute only if it was accompanied by a new Government of India Bill that created an India-wide elected assembly with more than an advisory capacity. At the same time, the Tories seem on the verge of splitting apart into Imperial Tories and National Tories. Even more worrying is the likelihood that the House of Lords will block the Statute, as it is dominated by National Tories.
Churchill struggles and uses all his political and parliamentary skills to get the Statute through Westminster. If it is successful, it would become law as it is ratified by each of the Dominion parliaments, and it is far from a certainty that this would be successfully done.
Meanwhile, Japan responds to the reinforcement of the British Pacific Fleet by embarking upon a new warship construction program to increase the size of its own fleet. This puts the British in a quandary. To maintain a naval force in the Pacific the size of the Japanese fleet, while still fulfilling their naval commitments around the rest of the world, would be a ruinously expensive proposition. Debate rages as to what to do.
The Cape-to-Cairo Railway is completed. King George V conducts a ceremonial trip, arriving in Cairo, taking the train to Cape Town and then sailing back to London. It is regarded as one of the great achievements in world engineering and is trumpeted around the world as a symbol of British power.
For Churchill, the passage of the Statute of Westminster has become the great crusade of his life. As skeptical as he is about Indian self-rule, he is willing to allow another Government of India Bill if that is the cost for Liberal and Labour support. In an unprecedented move, he agrees to meet with Jarwaharlal Nehru when the Indian National Congress leader comes to London for a conference with the Liberals. The newspaper photos of the meeting show a delighted Nehru and a most irritated Churchill. But in Parliament, momentum is shifting in favor of the Statute.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives seem to be on the verge of splitting. Between one-third and two-fifths oppose the Statute and rally under the banner of “National Conservatives.” The remainder, the “Imperial Conservatives,” remain steadfastly loyal to Churchill and enthusiastically support the Statute. Their position is solidified by the fact that the grassroots of the Tory Party clearly supports the Statute by a wide margin.
On March 26, the House of Commons finally divides on the issue, with no one certain of the outcome. In the end, the Statute passed with a margin of less than 2%. However, the National Tory faction makes it quite clear that they will contest the next election as an independent party.
Now the House of Lords receives the Statute, and all expect them to easily block it. But Churchill had worked out a political masterstroke ahead of time, with few people knowing anything about it. Churchill and his new Liberal allies want to create a number of new peerages and appoint Statute supporters to them, so as to tip the balance of power in the House of Lords. Constitutionally, the only person who can this is the King himself. George V is a strong supporter of the Statute and, despite the unusual nature of the request, agrees to the move. As a result, the vote shifts strongly to the pro-Statute side, not only because of new Lords but also because many previously anti-Statute Lords shift their support out of fear of losing control of the chamber.
On May 18, the Statute moves through the House of Lords and receives the King’s Consent, thus becoming law. Within a few weeks, Australia and New Zealand have both ratified it, but Canada remains skeptical and the Union of South Africa (where the Afrikaner vote remains the decisive political influence) is actively hostile.
Meanwhile, Churchill has reached an agreement with President Garner on an approach to possible Japanese aggression in the Pacific. It is decided that the British will maintain a fleet in the area roughly two-thirds the size of the Japanese fleet, while the Americans maintain a fleet one-third the size of the Japanese fleet. With a combined fleet of equal power, it may be possible to prevent to deter the Japanese from launching any unprovoked aggression. However, Garner refuses to consider an official alliance, maintaining America’s struck neutrality policy.
In Russia, it is announced that Czar Michael I has died of a heart attack. His 15-year-old son, Nicolas, is immediately proclaimed Czar Nicholas III. A Regency Council made up of reactionary aristocrats is formed to govern the country. Rumors sweep the world that Michael did not die of natural causes, but these remain unsubstantiated.
Churchill requests King George V to make a state visit to Canada, which has the effect of raising public awareness of the Statute debate. This, combined with the fervent activities of pro-Statute Canadian politicians, results in a narrow vote in favor of the Statute on May 2.
In South Africa, the leading proponent of the Statute becomes Jan Smuts. Though a patriotic Afrikaner who fought against the British in the Boer War, he had come to see the future of South Africa lay with participation in the British Empire while retaining full control over their own internal affairs. Despite passionate opposition from unreconstructed Boers, Smuts is able to swing enough of the Afrikaner vote his way that, combined with the strength of British Cape Town colonists, the Parliament eventually votes in favor of the Statute during the summer.
With all four Dominions having voted in favor, the Statute of Westminster now comes into force. Elections for representatives to the Imperial Council are scheduled for the following year in Britain and all the Dominions.
The Liberal Party now holds Churchill to his promise to move another Government of India Bill through Parliament. He tries to drag his feet on the subject, but is too honorable to go back on his word entirely. Along with Liberal leader Ramsay MacDonald (who had taken the leadership of the party after the merger of the Labour and Liberal parties), Churchill begins work on the drafting of a new bill, hoping to retain as much British power as possible.
The Indian National Congress is in no mood to compromise. With the Liberal Labour Party (the official name, although the party is usually just referred to as the Liberals), running a united front in the coming election, while the Tories are split between Nationalists and Imperialists, Nehru and his colleagues consider the possibility of holding out until after the next Parliamentary election, when the Liberals will likely return to power.
For that matter, many people are asking whether the Westminster Parliament should have any say in the matter of Indian Self-Rule any longer, since the matter should more appropriately be one discussed by the Imperial Council, which will convene in 1937. In addition to having jurisdiction over the foreign and defense policies of the Empire (and, through the Trade Commission, with foreign trade), it is also empowered to “govern the relations among the constituent parts of the British Empire,” which is taken to mean that the Council may decide the form of government in all areas under British control.
Churchill, disgruntled at the very thought of Indian self-rule, seizes upon this and pushes a resolution through Parliament that the issue will now be decided by the Imperial Council rather than the Westminster Parliament. He is under no illusions as to the eventual result, but does not want to compromise his personal ideals. The Liberals see this as rather a cop-out, but are confident that they will control Britain’s Council delegation and thus be able to control the flow of legislation there.
In Turkey, the government is becoming increasingly right-wing. Xenophobia directed towards the Greeks, Armenians and Kurds is intense, and hostility to those three states is reaching critical levels. There are regular border skirmishes and exchanges of artillery fire between the Turks and Armenians and occasional Turkish incursions into Kurdish territory.
To counter the Turks, and seeing an opportunity to increase their own influence in a critical region, Russia begins to increase its military support of Armenia, supplying them with weapons and helping to train its military. It also initiates a similar program, though of smaller proportions, with Kurdistan. The Greeks are being assisted by the British and thus turn down a Russian offer for assistance.
In the United States, President Garners wins a second term in office, though continued Republican control of the Senate blocks legislation he considers important.
Elections are held across Britain and the Dominions for the representatives of the Imperial Council. In Britain, the Imperial Council elections are held in concert with regular Parliamentary elections. The result is a Liberal landslide, as the Liberal Party takes nearly 60% of the vote. The Conservatives take slightly more than a fifth, with the remainder going to the disaffected Nationalist Conservatives (soon to be referred to simply as the Nationalists).
The reasons for this extraordinary result are much debated. Obviously, the main reason was the split of the Conservative Party, but since Churchill had achieved one of the great feats of British politics, many wondered why the people had treated him so shabbily. The truth was that the Statute seemed rather remote and technical to the British body politic, while the Liberal campaign of social reform and economic progress struck a powerful chord.
In the Dominions, the main parties also split their votes to the Council, leading to a confusing muddle of different parties holding seats. According to the Statute, seats would be allocated to the Dominions proportionately by population, so Britain had slightly more seats than all the Dominions put together, but the Liberals still had far from a Parliamentary majority (it was quickly recognized that it would be impossible for such an event to ever happen). They quickly formed a coalition with left-leaning parties from other Dominions to govern the Council.
John Allsebrook is elected as the first Imperial Prime Minister. He announces that the main agenda for the Council will be the complete settlement of the “Indian Question” as well as economic development programs for the non-self-governing portions of the Empire (particularly in Africa).
The Indian National Congress demands that India be granted Dominion status and have free elections (at the earliest possible moment). Allsebrook agrees that this should be the goal, and the first in a long series of conferences takes place, some in London, others in Delhi.
The Irish People’s Party had managed to elect a few representatives to the Imperial Council, but due to its unusual constitutional framework, Ireland obviously had little influence- certainly much less than any of the Dominions. As a result, a new movement arises within the IPP to again change the constitutional framework of Ireland raise it to the status of an independent Dominion, rather than a self-governing part of the United Kingdom.
In Parliament, MacDonald is now Prime Minister (a position which will gradually become known as “Westminster Prime Minister”). Churchill, disgruntled and feeling rejected by the people, goes into opposition as the head of the Tories, bitter towards the Nationalists, bitter towards the Liberals and bitter towards the Indian National Congress.
Overseas, other nations look on the developments within the British Empire more or less with ambivalence. They had always tended to see the Empire as a unified entity in any event, and consider the Statute of Westminster to be little more than rectifying a few constitutional issues.
After a number of border provocations by the Japanese, full-scale war erupts between China and Japan. Having already gained complete control over Manchuria, Japanese columns now thrust into northern China, while amphibious expeditions land at points along the Chinese coast. Bombing attacks on civilian centers cause heavy damage and loss of life.
The world condemns the Japanese aggression, and Churchill makes fiery speeches in Parliament demanded government action. Despite disgust at seeming to bend to Churchill’s wishes, MacDonald agrees to reinforce the British fleet at Singapore.
The French also dispatch a naval force to Indochina, though it is considerably smaller than the British Pacific Fleet. The British and the French, upholding the Entente Cordiale, agree that a Japanese attack on the Asian territory of either of them will be considered an attack on both.
The Americans, however, respond differently. Rather than reinforcing their fleet in the Philippines, they withdraw it to their main Pacific naval base at Pearl Harbor. Garner makes this decision due to domestic politics, hoping to appease isolation Republicans sufficiently to allow passage on certain social welfare legislation through the Senate. The British are a bit mystified at this, and alarmed as it leaves their Pacific Fleet in Singapore outnumbered by the Japanese.
Japan continues to make substantial progress in China, whose central government remains weak and unable to coordinate effective resistance. By the middle of the year, most of northeastern China is under Japanese control, as is the entire Chinese coast.
The Imperial Parliament, in what is seen as its first major decision, orders that reinforcements be sent to the British garrison in Hong Kong with a brigade of Gurkhas and an Australian battalion. It is hoped that such a garrison could withstand a Japanese attack until the arrival of a relief force from Singapore.
Russia, while ignoring British suggestions that they coordinate their respective responses to the Sino-Japanese War, views the situation with concern. They strongly oppose further expansion of Japanese power in East Asia. As a result, they reinforce their army in Siberia and begin sending weapons and supplies to the Chinese.
Imperial Prime Minister Allsebrook and President Garner hold a conference in the Azores, the main subject being the continued Japanese aggression against China. Allsebrook is disappointed at the withdrawal of the American fleet from the Philippines, but Garner says the decision cannot be undone. Concern is expressed that Japanese annexation of large parts of China would allow them complete domination of East Asia, and measure are discussed to deal with the situation.
Allsebrook also must address the issue of Dominion status for India. The Indian National Congress and the Muslim League have become politically quite adept through the elected regional councils and all observers aside from some Nationalists in Britain are of the opinion that the political infrastructure is in place for complete self-rule.
However, the critical issue immediately becomes India’s representation in the Imperial Council. As seats are allocated proportionally by population, it immediately is obvious that India would completely dominate the political framework of the Empire, since her population alone is far larger than that of Britain and the Dominions put together. Also at issue is the status of the Princely States, which are not technically part of the British Raj but are independent states more or less bound to it by treaty.
Nehru convenes a all-party summit in Delhi, with representatives of the Imperial Council in attendance as well. Both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League wanted a constitution that would limit the Indian franchise to the educated classes, as they feared the emergence of populist factions. Some wanted this simply out of a desire to hold power in a self-governing India, whereas others feared that India would tear itself apart without such a restriction. Others, however, demanded universal voting rights, while some attendees did not want India to have anything to do with the Imperial Council or the British Empire. The conference broke up in some disarray, without anything substantive having been decided.
Allsebrook responds by creating a special committee, with one representative each from Britain, each Dominion, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. To chair the committee, he chooses Lawrence Dundas, 2nd Marquess of Zetland. Some Liberals oppose this, as Dundas is a Conservative, but others view it as a wise decision considering his long experience with Indian affairs and the respect in which he is held by most Indian leaders. This becomes known as the Zetland Commission.
After Japan ignores a combined British-French-American communiqué calling for a withdrawal from China, the Three Parties (as they declare themselves in reference to Japan) announce two strong measures. They boycott the shipment of fuel oil to Japan and they begin sending weapons and supplies to the Chinese through Burma.
With Russian oil already cut off, Japan is faced with a severe crisis. America and the British-dominated Middle East had been their major oil suppliers. Without access to the oil under their control, the Japanese will be unable to prosecute their war against China. And with Russian and Allied supplies now reaching the Chinese, the resistance in China is increasing in effectiveness.
Some of the more vehement militarists in Japan think the answer lies in a naval offensive the south, so as to capture the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. This would also involve the destruction of the British-French fleet in the area and possibly a later battle with the Americans. Many in Japan relish this possibility, but the more sensible members of the government think it is madness. The idea that Japan could win a war against the combined might of the British Empire, France and the United States, with Russia possibly joining in as well, is considered absurd.
The Zetland Commission continues the long, laborious process of deciding how to raise India to the level of a self-governing Dominion. Suggestions that India accept a higher ratio for its population in determining proportional representation (the suggested formula being 75 Indians for one Briton) are dismissed by Indian representatives as implying that Indians are lesser creatures than Britons. Instead, strict proportional representation will have to be dumped altogether, and each Dominion allocated a certain number of representatives based upon their “overall influence in Imperial institutions,” a phrase which can obviously mean whatever the Imperial Council wants it to mean. Discussions continue.
Military planners in Japan conclude that they cannot hope to win a war in the present situation. The combined Pacific Fleets of the British, French and Americans are roughly equal to the Japanese fleet, and reinforcements would be dispatched from Europe and America at the outbreak of hostilities. Furthermore, Japan is diplomatically isolated, with Russia threatening it from the north and no allies willing to support Japan.
Japan knows it cannot prosecute the war in China without access to proper oil supplies, which have progressively been cut off. It seeks to end its diplomatic isolation by approaching Russia with a proposal for dividing China between them: Japan would get Manchuria and eastern China, while Russia would get western China. The Japanese point out that this would allow them to threaten British India in the event of a conflict between the two powers. After some consideration, Russia rejects this offer, as their interests in China are mostly focused on Manchuria.
In the summer, Japanese forces reluctantly go on the defensive in China, unable to maintain major offensive operations without sufficient fuel supplies.
The Zetland Commission issues its final report, calling for India to be raised to the level of a separate Dominion within the Empire and be governed by a Westminster-style parliamentary system. The Imperial Council itself shall be reformed, with each Dominion having a certain proportion of members. For every 10 members Britain itself has, India shall have five. Canada shall have four, South Africa and Australia shall have three, and New Zealand two (the total being 210 members). On the important committees, the Imperial Defense Committee and the Imperial Trade Committee, each Dominion shall have a single seat.
The debate over the Zetland Report grips the Imperial Council for many weeks and becomes a major topic of conversation throughout the Empire. In the end, though, it is accepted by a wide margin. Elections to the Indian Parliament (which is to be called the “Lok Sabha” of “House of the People”) are scheduled for the following year, and King Edward VIII is preparing to make an extensive tour of India to celebrate the achievement of Dominion status and open the first session of the Lok Sabha.
Skirmishes along the Turkish-Armenian border continue.
In U.S. Presidential elections, Republican Charles McNary, formerly the Majority Leader of the Senate, defeats President Garner, who had attracted substantial opposition for breaking the tradition against seeking a third term. Republicans now control the White House and the Senate, but Democrats control the House. In both parties, generally moderate views prevail.
Fierce political infighting break out within the Japanese government when it is revealed that the Japanese leadership plans to approach the British and asking them to mediate the Chinese conflict. The general idea being that they shall agree to withdraw from all China except Manchuria, which shall be a puppet state under Japanese control until such time as it can be incorporated into Japan itself, just as Korea had been in 1910.
The militant faction bitterly opposes this, wishing for a war against the Westerners even though it could prove disastrous to Japan. The moderates believe that such a war can only have one outcome and believe such a course would lead to Japan’s downfall. While all branches of the armed forces contain members of both factions, the navy is largely militant.
In China, the consolidation of the power of the Chinese government, combined with the training and supplies received from Russia and the Western powers, results in several tactical setbacks for the Japanese. China is able to reoccupy much territory, but Japan remains in control of much of northeastern China.
King Edward VIII commences his tour of the Indian Raj as elections are held for the Lok Sabha. Contrary to the predictions of many, he is received enthusiastically by the people and the tour is regarded as a great success. Many Indian politicians are upset by this, but others see the popular support for the British monarch as a means to win support during the election drive and scramble to make public appearances with him.
Elections are held in June. As expected, most seats are won by the Congress Party, with the Muslim League as the second largest bloc. A number of smaller and regional parties also win a considerable number of seats. Although it has enough seats to govern on its own, Congress elects to form a coalition with the Muslim League to govern, hoping to avoid sectarian tension. Nehru becomes Prime Minister, with Muhammed Al Jinnah as Deputy Prime Minister.
A series of bomb attacks in Johannesburg is blamed on a radical Afrikaner terrorist group, which declares its intention of removing South Africa from the British Empire and imposing strict Afrikaner rule under the guidelines of white superiority. These attacks, which kill about a dozen people, are immediately denounced by all major Afrikaner politicians.
Members of the Japanese militant faction stage a coup attempt in Tokyo, attempting to overthrow the government before it approaches Britain with a mediation request. After several confused hours, in which several people are killed, the coup attempt is put down. The Emperor addresses the Japanese people by radio, telling them what had happened. He ends the address by saying that the government will approach the British for help in negotiating an end to the Chinese conflict.
Japan, having not been defeated on the battlefield by the Chinese and retaining very strong naval power, is able to negotiate from a period of considerable strength. It gets most of what it wants. Manchuria is set up as a Japanese puppet state, and Japan continues to hold Tsingtao. Elsewhere, the Republic of China under Wang Jingwei will take control, and the Japanese also gain important trade concessions.
Under the threat of Britain intervening directly on the side of the Chinese, Japan sees these terms as quite good and accepts them. As part of the treaty ending the Sino-Japanese War, Britain quietly gains permanent control over the New Territories, the portion of Hong Kong on the Chinese mainland.
In Britain, some left-leaning elements criticize the deal as giving too much to the Japanese, but in general British public opinion is very pleased with itself for having done such a service to the world. Other nations rather resent the demonstration of the British ability to dictate peace terms to nations on the other side of the world, but most are happy that a larger war against Japan has been avoided.
MacDonald and Allsebrook go into the election season confident of victory, riding the wave of satisfaction. Liberals again win a solid majority, winning 55%. The major shift in both the Westminster Parliament and the Imperial Parliament is that the Tories win back numerous seats from the Nationalists.
Churchill makes the decision not to run for his old Westminster and is instead elected to the Imperial Parliament, becoming the leader of the Conservative opposition there. He forms an opposition coalition from Conservative party members from the Dominions, although no Indian party will join Churchill’s group.
At a conference of physicists in London, Hungarian scientist Leo Szilard mentions the possibility of eventually deriving power, either as energy or as a weapon, from the reactions of atoms. The conference delegates agree that, while interesting, no nation would ever be willing to expend the vast amounts in terms of resources and manpower to achieve such a goal, particularly as there was no way of knowing whether it would be successful. No government takes any interest in the conference proceedings.
Russia issues a proclamation saying that it does not recognize the existence of Manchuria, but it does not otherwise state what it believes the status of Manchuria to be. Japan watches this with alarm and begins diverting resources from naval production to increase the power of its land army. In response, Russia begins building up its forces along the Manchurian border.
In South Africa, the Afrikaner-dominated National Party wins control of the South African Parliament, although the more moderate Liberal Party retains the largest number of delegates to the Imperial Parliament. Much to the dismay of the rest of the Empire, South Africa begins imposing strict racial segregation on the majority black population, a system known as apartheid. Although racial prejudice is present throughout the Empire, Britain and the other Dominions prefer to keep up at leas the façade of equality.
The Imperial Defense Committee holds a series of hearings on the defense of India. With India now self-governing, it is decided that the Indian Army must be lead by Indian officers at the earliest possible date. The Military Academy of the Raj is established at Simla in order to train Indian officers, while British officers will remain in command in the meantime. The goal is for Indian forces to be lead by Indians at all levels within the next fifteen years. At the same time, it is decided that several British regiments will remain posted on the Northwest Frontier, along with rotating units from other Dominions.
In France, the center-left coalition which had been governing the country is replaced by a center-right coalition. One of its first actions is to suggest to Britain and Germany the possibility of a “European alliance” to confront the possibilities of future Russian aggression and economic competition with the United States. Britain shows little interest, but Germany responds favorably.
Greece announces that it is moving its capital from Athens to Constantinople. The Turkish government angrily protests this move, claiming that the Treaty which forced it to give up Constantinople in the first place was unfair and made under duress. It also claims that the land seized by Greece along the Aegean coast should be returned.
In French Indochina, a native rebellion causes serious difficulties for the French, but does not threaten their control over the territory.
In the Imperial Parliament, members of the Indian Congress Party put forward a plan which would increase investment in the educational and economic infrastructure of the African territories of the Empire, with the intention of raising the standard of living there. Eventually, according to this plan, new Dominions will be created out of the African colonies. This generates much discussion and certain elements of the plan are voted into operation.
The Irish Parliament, still controlled by the Irish People’s Party (although the party itself is gradually morphing into a center-left faction and a center-right faction), issues a formal petition to the Westminster Parliament, asking that Ireland be established as an independent Dominion in its own right, so as to have full participation within the Imperial Parliament.
Right-wing elements in Russia, which completely dominate the Czarist court, have begun spreading vicious xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda throughout the country. He result has been an increase in anti-Semitic pogroms, leading to the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews. While most settle into established Jewish communities in Poland and Germany (where they are generally made welcome) many also settle in British-controlled Palestine, where the Jewish population has now climbed to roughly 40%.
At the same time, Russia as begun building up its military once again, with a large portion of its army now facing the Japanese in Manchuria.
In U.S. Presidential elections, Republican President Thomas Dewey (who had previously been Vice-President but succeeded to the Presidency upon the 1942 death of President McNary), is reelected. Democrats maintain their control over the House of Representatives, however, thus forcing both parties to persist in relatively moderate policies.
Last edited by Max Sinister; October 21st, 2010 at 01:36 PM.. Reason: Discussion link
In response to Russian provocations, Japan reinforces its strength in Manchuria and forces the puppet state government to sign a new treaty, giving Japan the power to control its foreign and defense policy. In truth, it already had this power, but making it official rather than de facto is seen as an insult by the Russians, who greatly covet the territory.
In Anatolia, there are numerous border provocations by the Turks against the Greeks, leading to the deaths of several Greek soldiers. In response, the Greeks mount an air raid on a single Turkish airfield. Incidents continue to heat up until April 19, when Turkey mounts a full-scale offensive with several divisions, the goal being the reconquest of the Aegean coast and the recapture on Constantinople. The Greco-Turkish War has begun.
As both sides lack much modern equipment, trench warfare quite similar to that on the Western Front in the Great War becomes the main feature of the conflict. The Turkish offensive against Greece is hindered by the fact that a few divisions remain posted in the eastern part of the country, to keep a wary eye on the Armenians. The Turkish, with a substantial numerical advantage, ground slowly forward. The Greeks fight back fiercely, inflicting heavy losses. Not wishing for the Turks to gain control of the Aegean coast, the British begin sending shipments of supplies and ammunition to the Greeks.
The Imperial Parliament, prompted by Indian delegates and over the opposition of South African delegates, issues a proclamation criticizing the institution of apartheid in South Africa. However, it lacks the constitutional authority to do anything about it.
In 1945, for the first time in many years, the British Empire surpasses the United States in industrial productivity. The economic system of Imperial Preference has worked wonders for the Empire’s economy, with raw materials from the Dominions flowing into the factories of Britain, although simple lack of space is causing widespread industrialization in the Dominions as well. In the meantime, Australia and New Zealand have gained a reputation as the “Breadbasket of the Empire.” In slightly less important economic news, South African wine is becoming increasingly popular throughout the Empire, being cheaper than French wine, if not nearly as good.
After numerous border skirmishes, full-scale war erupts between Russia and Japan over the issue of Manchuria. The Second Russo-Japanese War has begun.
The course of the campaign takes the world by surprise. Lead by General Georgy Zhukov, well-armed and well-equipped Russian armies smash through Japanese lines and sweep into their rear areas. Japanese troops fight with suicidal bravery but are unable to stop the onslaught. Within a matter of weeks, most of northern Manchuria is in Russian hands.
The Japanese respond with their most powerful weapon: the navy. The Russian Pacific Fleet, based in Vladivostok, is gravely outnumbered by the Japanese. When a powerful Japanese task force arrives off the main Russian base, it is no contest. The Japanese pound the Russian fleet into oblivion at little cost to themselves and proceed to shell the Russian port and naval base to pieces.
However, this is not 1904 and Japanese superiority at sea is not going to play as decisive a role. Increased industrialization and particularly the completion of the Trans-Siberia Railroad allow large Russian reinforcements to arrive in Manchuria, giving the Russians a strong numerical superiority. Combined with better equipment and the brilliant and aggressive leadership of General Zhukov, the Russians continue to score successes in Manchuria.
The other major powers declare neutrality and watch events closely. No one is particularly thrilled with the idea of Russia controlling Manchuria, but neither are they desirous of Japan having it. Many European powers are content to see Russia focus on Asia, hoping that Russian activities there will keep them from focusing too much on European issues.
Meanwhile, the Greco-Turkish War continues to rage. In June, the Turks capture the city of Smyrna, giving them a foothold on the Aegean coast once again. Turkish troops go on a rampage when they capture the city, slaughtering Greek and Armenian civilians in huge numbers. The news shocks Europeans and for weeks the papers can talk of little else. In the press, the Turks are depicted as barbaric murderers of women and children, and public opinion, which had been pro-Greek anyway, slides decisively in favor of Greece. Against this backdrop, Greece appeals for British help against Turkish aggression.
The Imperial Defense Committee discusses the feasibility of sending a British fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean to assist the Greeks. In late August, a powerful Royal Navy task force assembles at Malta and Alexandria and steams to the Turkish coast. This is accompanied by an Imperial demand that Turkey halt its offensive and order its armies to retire to the positions they occupied before the fighting began. Then, so the announcement stated, the issues could be settled by negotiations.
Turkey angrily rejects the ultimatum. The response of the British is bombard Turkish positions along both the Black Sea and Mediterranean coasts. At the same time, carrier aircraft launch attacks on Turkish targets in the interior of the country. Heavy damage is caused, and Turkish troops are diverted to protect against possible amphibious attacks. Two British regiments, the Black Watch and the South Staffordshire Regiment, land to assist the Greeks and took part in the recapture of Smyrna, incurring substantial casualties in doing so.
Although some French and German observers question the British intervention, public opinion is wholly on the side of the British and the Greeks and Britain gains tremendous goodwill for its operations. A few weeks after the recapture of Smyrna, the Turks are brought to the negotiating table and the conflict is settled as status quo ante bellum.
In the face of this demonstration of British power and with Russia increasingly hostile and xenophobic, French and German leaders hold a series of talks to explore the possibility of a Franco-German mutual defense treaty. While there are no major conflicts of interest between the European powers and the British Empire, there is the worry that British power is becoming so overwhelming that the influence of all other nations will simply be overridden in all cases.
At its annual party convention in Dublin, the IPP announces that the establishment of Ireland as an independent Dominion, with full participation in the Imperial Parliament, is the highest priority of the party. It presses the Westminster Parliament for a new Act establishing this position.
Conservatives, allied with the Irish Unionist Party (which dominates Ulster), opposed this position, while the Liberal Party is willing to at least entertain it. The Liberals do declare, however, that it would be unwise to rush things and call for a series of cross-party discussions on the issue.
In the Imperial Parliament, IPP representatives make repeated speeches on the issue, declaring that since the Imperial Parliament is empowered to govern the relations between the constituent parts of the Empire (the so-called “Governing Clause”), it can pass legislation establishing Ireland as an independent Dominion without reference to the British Parliament. Churchill denounces such an interpretation and says that, as the Statute of Westminster was his creation, he should know best what it means.
The legal and constitutional ambiguity of the Governing Clause is the subject of much discussion in the later part of the year. It is pointed out that the Governing Clause in the Statute of Westminster has been used to gradually shift responsibilities of the Colonial Office from direct British control to Imperial control. As a result, only about two-thirds of the staff of the Colonial Office is now made up of Britons; men from all the Dominions are becoming increasingly important in the direct governing of the Empire.
Despite Japanese naval superiority, the course of the Russo-Japanese War continues to favor Russia. Its land armies not only outnumber the Japanese, but are much better equipped in terms of armor and equipment. Throughout the year, despite determined Japanese resistance and high casualties, the Russians push forward. The only major Japanese victory is the occupation of the northern half of Sakhalin Island.
In London, the new Imperial Parliament building is completed, located on the Thames south of Westminster Palace and within sight of Westminster Abbey. King Edward VIII makes a speech at the opening ceremony, flanked by head of the delegations from each Dominion, expressing his hope that the building will serve as a symbol of the unity of the Empire many centuries to come.
Simultaneously in both the Imperial Parliament and the Westminster Parliament, the IPP Leaders introduce legislation calling for Ireland to be established as an independent Dominion. Eamon de Valera, the IPP Leader in the Imperial Parliament (where they hold seven seats) declares that the Irish people have contributed to the Empire in their own unique fashion and, as a distinct cultural and ethnic group, should be entitled to the same representation as the Dominions.
The IPP bill is supported by the Indian Congress Party (which has 36 seats in the Imperial Parliament). Most other factions are ambivalent, fearing a dilution of their own power, and Churchill’s Tory faction actively opposes the bill, not wishing to break up the United Kingdom.
Many parties in the Imperial Parliament also make repeated speeches decrying the practice of apartheid in South Africa. The National Party of South Africa simply points out that the Imperial Parliament has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of a Dominion.
There are loud grumblings in the United States about the trade policies of the British Empire. The Canadian market for automobiles is dominated by British vehicles even though American cars are both cheaper and more efficient. It is only through the tariffs created by Imperial Preference that the American auto industry is unable to compete with the British.
Japanese forces have dug in along a defensive line protecting the Korean Peninsula. Unable to outflank it, Russian divisions attempt to punch directly through but are repulsed. Japanese troops have gradually learned to deal with armored attacks and have largely reequipped themselves with heavy weapons purchased from Germany.
In late summer, the Second Russo-Japanese War comes to an end after peace talks brokered by the United States. Russia is now in complete control of Manchuria. International pressure prevents Russia from annexing the territory outright, so it ostensibly gives Manchuria back to China. However, it has clearly become a Russian zone of influence, garrisoned by Russian forces and with Russia in control of transportation and the most important industries. The Japanese conquest of Sakhalin Island is recognized by Russia, which regards it as a small price to pay for their gains in Manchuria.
Prince Andrew, son of King Edward VIII and Heir to the Throne, marries Lady Beatrice Mountbatten, who had been born and raised in Australia. Prince Andrew had met her in Sydney while he was serving as lieutenant commander on board the HMS Canterbury. The Empire is filled with delight at the thought of a British and Australian royal couple, and Australians in particular are hopeful that their future king will be as much Australian as British.
The Irish Dominion Debate continues to stir trouble. In Belfast, Ulster Unionist demonstration against Dominion status for Ireland lead to violent anti-Catholic rioting, causing much property damage. A few days later, three IPP activists in Belfast are shot dead after an altercation at a football match.
In Palestine and Egypt, the British military occupation has become so prolonged as to have become virtually institutionalized. In Egypt, there are nationalistic factions as well as pro-British groups, some of the latter having discussed the possibility of appealing to become a British Dominion themselves. This has largely floundered on the refusal of nationalist Muslims to recognize the British sovereign as their king.
In Palestine, by contrast, the issue is complicated by rivalry between Muslim and Jewish groups, although there are also secular factions with both Jewish and Muslim members, and these political parties are gradually becoming recognized as the most effective in dealing with everyday problems such as sanitation and economic development.
Increasingly worried about Russian intentions, particularly following its success against Japan, France and Germany sign a mutual defense treaty, vowing to come to one another’s aid if either is attacked by a foreign enemy. Messages are sent to Britain to emphasis that this treaty is not directed against them and that, indeed, Britain is welcome to join the treaty if it wishes. A debate is held in the Imperial Parliament, but few parties are supportive of the proposal and it is voted down.
In the Imperial Parliament, the debate over Dominion status for Ireland continues. The IPP and the Indian National Congress attempt to gain support from left-leaning parties in the other Dominions (since the Liberal Party in Britain fears it will lose support to the Tories if it comes out in support). Since much of the base support for Dominion liberal constituents is from Irish immigrants, the Dominion liberal parties support the bill, not expecting it to have any chance of actually passing. As time passes, a gradually increasing base of support for Irish Dominion status is established. The key stumbling block, as always, is the status of Northern Ireland.
To celebrate their marriage, the Prince and Princess of Wales embark of a six-month tour of the Empire. The event is made into a glorious extravaganza and becomes by far the most reported news story of the year. After a series of events in London and Edinburgh, they cross to Dublin and embark upon the royal yacht Britannia. They sail across the Atlantic, travel across Canada by train, then fly to New Zealand, where they are picked up by the Royal Navy frigate Durban. They sail to Australia, cross by train, and sail again to Singapore, where they review the British Pacific Fleet. They then fly to India and spend several weeks crisscrossing the country before sailing (again on the Durban) for Cape Town, where they embark upon the Cape-to-Cairo railroad and arrive in Egypt a few weeks later. After visits around Cairo and in Palestine, the Britannia picks them up and, reviewing the Mediterranean Fleet at Malta en route, they sail back to England.
All consider the trip a great success. Popular enthusiasm for the royal family is high throughout the Empire. Even in India, where many had worried there might be a hostile or at least sulky reception, the crowds had appeared in massive numbers and cheered wildly. All observers see the Grand Tour as a sign that the Empire is more unified than it has ever been.
The Irish Parliament, completely dominated by the IPP, threatens to issue a unilateral declaration of independence unless the issue of Irish Dominion status is moved forward in the Imperial Parliament. According to the Home Rule Act, the Irish Parliament has no authority to do such a thing, but there are fears that the move could have strong popular support within Ireland and destabilize the situation further.
Some members of other Dominions protest that the establishment of Ireland as a separate Dominion would concentrate too much power in the British Isles. The fact that the British and Irish rarely agree on anything renders this argument mute, however.
On April 13, the Imperial Parliament is thrown into turmoil by a series of political maneuvers. The IPP and the Indian National Congress, in alliance with various left-of-center Dominion parties, win over 14 backbenchers from the British Liberal Party to push through the Irish Dominion Bill with 142 votes. The Bill establishes Ireland (explicitly including Northern Ireland) as a “Dominion of the British Empire separate from the United Kingdom.”
A constitutional crisis grips the Empire. The Westminster Parliament immediately declares the act to be unconstitutional, since it does not have their consent and Ireland foreign affairs are still controlled by Westminster. In the meantime, the Ulster Unionist Party organizes mass demonstrations on the streets of Belfast and other Ulster cities, with “Ulster will fight! Ulster will be right!” becoming the key rallying cry. Remarkably, no one is killed in the following days, despite several altercations between Protestants and Catholics.
The IPP is as surprised as anyone else that their bill passed through the Imperial Parliament. De Valera is actually upset, since he had not intended to set off a political firestorm and made no plans for such an eventuality. And the inclusion of Ulster in the legislation had been a purely symbolic act on his part.
King Edward VIII summons various political leaders to Buckingham Palace, where a secret all-night conference is held on April 20-21. When dawn breaks, the British people are stunned to discover that their monarch has refused Royal Assent to a parliamentary act, thus rendering the legislation null and void. The last time Royal Assent had been denied had been in 1708, during the reign of Queen Anne.
It is soon revealed that this extraordinary move was only the most dramatic element in a crisis deal worked out during the meeting. The Liberal Party openly declares it support Irish Dominion status and announces work on a new bill, which, at Tory insistence, will not include Ulster. In fact, the language of the bill specifies that Ulster will remain “forever” a part of the United Kingdom and that the Dominion of Ireland will have no claim upon it. Ireland will have twenty seats in the Imperial Parliament, although Britain will continue to have 100 seats (this latter fact is largely overlooked at the time and will later be the cause of some concern).
The revised act passes through both the Imperial Parliament and the Westminster Parliament on June 1. The Irish Parliament’s powers are expanded to include all the powers held by an independent Dominion of the Empire. There is much rejoicing in Ireland when the news arrives, and the rest of the Empire heaves a sigh of relief that the crisis was resolved.
King Edward VIII, far from being condemned for such blatant interference in political matters, is widely praised for his actions in refusing Royal Consent to the initial bill. It is widely believed that he had averted a civil war in Ireland. The popularity of the Monarchy, already high, is elevated even further.
Having demonstrated its military land power in the war against the Japanese, Russia seems intent on flexing its muscles. Already in de facto control over Manchuria, it begins pressuring the Chinese government for concessions in the rest of its territory. At the same time, Russian agents appear in Persia, Kurdistan and Afghanistan with increasing frequency.
Poland joins the Franco-German Alliance, which has become known as the European Defense Organization.
American establishes trade barriers on British purchases of American wheat, so as to retaliate for Imperial Preference tariffs on its goods. It offers to negotiate, eliminating the tariffs on wheat if the British will agree to a free trade agreement between American and Canada. Although Canadian members of the Imperial Parliament strongly support this measure, they are overwhelmingly outvoted by other members and the matter drops.
In South Africa, the National Party engages in a series of gerrymandering activities so as to solidify their control over the South African Parliament. Although they lose the popular vote in this year’s elections, winning only 43% of the vote, they are safely returned to power with about 55% of the seats. Apartheid continues and accelerates, with blacks being moved off prime land to make way for white settlement.
A debate begins in the Palestinian Legislative Council as to whether they should petition the Imperial Parliament to admit Palestine as a Dominion of the British Empire. The Muslim nationalists strongly oppose such a move, as they would refuse to recognize the British monarch as their king. The Jewish faction, however, is open to the idea, remembering British assistance to the Zionist movement. The Jewish-Muslim liberal secular parties, who opened the debate in the first place, strongly support the motion, so as to permanently stabilize Palestine and finally regularize the affairs of the country.
As part of a program sponsored by the Indian National Congress, the Nairobi Technical School, with a specialized curriculum to teach Africans the rudiments of administration, engineering and other skills necessary to run their own affairs, opens its doors. Before the end of the year, similar schools have opened in Nigeria, Botswana and Ghana. The National Party of South Africa denounces the money spent on these projects as an “utter waste.”
In a minor but symbolic change, the Prime Ministers of the various Dominions are now being referred to as Viceroys.
The Palestinian Legislative Council officially petitions the Imperial Parliament to admit Palestine as a Dominion. Muslim radicals respond by walking out of the Council and refusing to participate in government. This ends up being self-defeating, as the main Jewish political party (Yishuv, after the Jewish word for “settlement”) and the secular Palestinian Progressive Party now monopolize power. A major issue with many Muslims is how Jews, who make up less than half of the population, seem to have a majority of political power.
The Imperial Parliament accepts the petition and debates begin. It is decided that the matter can only come up for a final vote after Palestine has met certain conditions, including putting together a proper framework of citizenship and ensuring that everyone has equal rights.
Nationalist parties in many Arab lands, particularly British-occupied Egypt, object to the possible granting of Dominion status to Palestine. In areas under British influence, such as Arabia, the debate is rather muted, but many Arabians and Gulf sheiks express their concern to the British.
A coalition of socialist parties in the Imperial Parliament put forward legislation to give the Empire the power to “ensure democratic government and equal rights for call Imperial citizens.” The National Party of South Africa angrily denounces this, again claiming that the Empire cannot interfere in the internal affairs of the Dominions. The Indian National Congress, with many members uncomfortably tied to the Hindu caste system, remain quiet, while many other parties show varying degrees of support.
King Edward VIII opens the first session of the Irish Parliament after as it takes over all functions previously reserved for the Westminster Parliament.
The Great Game has turned up several notches. A cloak-and-dagger espionage game is in full swing in Persia and Afghanistan, as British and Russian agents vie with one another to prop up their country’s influence in those regions while hindering the activities of their enemies.
Passenger trans-Atlantic air travel begins, as British Airways launches regular flights from London to New York and Montreal.
In a surprising by-election victory, the Scottish National Party elects a member to the Westminster Parliament. Events in Ireland have increased awareness of Scottish nationalist groups, but they remain a small minority.
Sweden, Hungary and Romania join the European Defense Organization.
The Palestinian Legislative Council publishes its plan for a new parliament. Proportional representation throughout the territory will be the method of election, while important decisions will require a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority. By these means, it is hoped that the interests of the Jewish and Muslim communities may be balanced. Representation is also guaranteed for the Christian minority.
The city of Jerusalem will be the capital of the Dominion, with the holy sites under the protection of a specially-recruited regiment, with a battalion of Sikhs and a battalion of Gurkhas (who do not belong to any of the three faiths in question).
An anti-apartheid protect, consisting of people of many different races, is brutally broken up by baton-wielding South African police in Cape Town. The Imperial Parliament easily passes a resolution denouncing the violence (the only members which vote against it being the National Party of South Africa, the Australian Nationalist Party and about half the members of the Nationalist Party of the United Kingdom).
As a result of this, the Protection of Rights Act is pushed in the Imperial Parliament. The UK Liberal Party moves to its support, though worrying over the possibility of a split with the Indian National Congress, their coalition partners. The Muslim League moves to its support as well.
Churchill, still the leader of the Conservative opposition, finds himself in a difficult spot. Although far from an egalitarian himself, he finds the racist policies of the National Party of South Africa repulsive and has no wish to have his party associated with them. He prevaricates.
Russia gains valuable concessions to oil fields in Kurdistan, rather to the consternation of the British, who fear a potential threat to their Persian Gulf oil supply. It steps up its efforts to win concessions from the Republic of Iraq.
The South African Liberal Party, which controls the provincial government in Cape Town, takes steps to allow blacks to vote in local and provincial elections. It is well known that this is strictly against the apartheid laws of the Dominion, but the Liberals hope it will generate a court case which could go all the way to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London (which functions as the supreme court of the British Empire). At the very least, it is hoped that it will generate further publicity for the racial problems in South Africa.
As expected, the National government in Pretoria is outraged at the actions of the Liberal Party and immediately begins legal proceedings. It is quickly found that they conflict with Dominion law, and the Liberal Party begins a long series of appeals.
Debate begins in the Imperial Parliament on the admission of Palestine as a Dominion of the Empire. Most opposition comes from Nationalist parties, whose arguments contain a thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. The Indian National Congress is also somewhat worried, fearing that the addition of additional Muslim votes into the Parliament will reduce their strength vis-à-vis the Muslim Alliance.
The Palestine debate prompts consideration of other areas of the Empire being incorporated as Dominions. Attention falls on Malaya, which has grown into a prosperous territory with a strong middle-class, a highly-skilled workforce and steadily developing economy. It already has an advisory council elected from Malayan subjects regardless of race (the voting qualification being the ownership of property and the ability to speak English fluently). The Governor-General is still appointed by the Imperial Parliament, although, taking into account Malayan sensitivities, it has always been an Indian Muslim in recent years.
The British ambassador to Iraq is assassinated, his car being sprayed with machine gun fire as he leaves the embassy. It is the worst incident in an ever-escalating cloak-and-dagger struggle for influence in the Middle East and Central Asia. Although suspicion falls on Russian operatives, no evidence can be gathered and the Iraqi authorities prove reluctant to pursue the matter.
In Egypt, the British military authorities have long since turned civil matters over to local authorities and have attempted to introduce the principle of elected governments. A program is launched whereby activists with the secular and moderate Muslim political groups in Palestine tour Egypt and attempt to spread the idea of a similar framework being established for Egypt.
Members of the Imperial Parliament from the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League and the Sikh Alliance jointly file a petition asking that the title of the British monarch be amended so as to remove references to “Defender of the Faith.” Since this is explicitly a reference to Christianity, and specifically can be interpreted as a reference to the Anglican Church, it is offensive to the vast majority of Indians.
After much consideration and debate, Palestine is admitted to the British Empire as a Dominion. It is allocated ten votes in the Imperial Parliament. Uniquely, it has a system of two Viceroys, one Jewish and one Muslim.
The Jerusalem Regiment arrives in the city and takes up its duties of protecting the holy sites, as well as serving as a special police force in certain cases.
In British elections, the Conservatives win the greatest number of seats in both the Imperial Parliament and the Westminster Parliament, returning to power after a long period of time in the political wilderness. Harold Macmillan becomes Imperial Prime Minister (Churchill, while still an MIP, is considered to old to take up the mantle of power), while Rab Butler became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
It is noted that, in order to form a governing coalition in the Imperial Parliament, the Conservative Party is obliged to work with the Indian National Congress, which many observers consider a hugely symbolic event, showing how far the Empire has come as a political entity. The Imperial Foreign Minister in the new government is Nehru, who steps down from his position as Viceroy of India to accept the post
Nationalist politicians in Armenia make speeches protesting the extent of Russian influence over their country. Similar protests are seen in Kurdistan, Iraq and Persia, as Russian demands becomes increasingly heavy.
In the Caribbean, U.S. Marines intervene to restore order in Cuba, which had seen great political instability and rioting in Havana. Upon the completion of their mission, most U.S. forces withdraw, while elections are scheduled for the following year.
Nations are launching research into a wide variety of technological innovations, including jet aircraft and ballistic missiles. Nuclear science still remains an academic curiosity.
Imperial Petroleum, the largest oil company in the world, begins the laborious process of building a pipeline across the vast Arabian desert to the Palestinian port of Haifa, on the Mediterranean. A vast undertaking in incredibly harsh conditions, it will be one of the most demanding construction projects ever undertaken.
Egyptian authorities ask that British military bases be relocated out of the Nile Delta and focus instead on the Suez Canal itself. The Committee on Imperial Defense says that it will study the proposals. At the same time, a committee appointed by the Imperial Parliament meets with several Egyptian leaders to discuss the future status of Egypt.
In November, with anti-apartheid protests continuing to grip the country, a new round of elections in South Africa result in the Liberal Party winning 57% of the popular vote, but due to gerrymandering and other tactics, the National Party still returns to power with slightly over 50% of the parliamentary seats. The government announced an even stricter enforcement of apartheid laws than before.
On November 27, in a move later regarded as one of the most courageous political acts in the history of the British Empire, the Liberal-controlled provincial government of Cape Town announces that it does not recognize the results of the national election, claiming that the undemocratic electoral processes were “a violation of the liberties possessed by all subjects of the British Empire.” It ceases cooperation with the Dominion government and calls upon the Imperial Parliament for assistance.
South African army units, the majority of whom are made up of Afrikaners, are ordered to move into Cape Town to “restore order.” They meet no resistance from Cape Town authorities, but the Dominion authorities hesitate to arrest provincial government officials. The entire situation seems chaotic and uncertain.
The Imperial Parliament meets in emergency session. Macmillan finds himself well and truly stumped. It is clear that the situation in South Africa cannot be allowed to continue, yet Imperial law gives the Imperial Parliament no clear authority to interfere in the internal affairs of a Dominion.
While Macmillan huddles with Nehru and other leaders, attempting to come up with a strategy, word reaches London that a protest against the South African units occupying Cape Town has lead to several deaths, which in turns has sparked rioting. The situation seems about to fall apart.
On December 16, emergency legislation is passed, permitting the Imperial Parliament to intervene in Dominions when it seems that “democratic and/or effective government is unable to exercise authority.” Several regiments are mobilized in Britain and India, preparing for deployment to South Africa. The South African Parliament passes a resolution saying that the South African Army will resist with force any Imperial interference. At this, the Liberal Party walks out of the Parliament altogether, meeting in a rump session and declaring themselves loyal to the Empire.
With the Liberals out of the South African Parliament, the National Party passes legislation declaring the Liberal South African Party an outlaw organization. On the advice of Macmillan and Nehru, King Edward VIII communicates that the King’s consent is refused to this legislation, but the South Africans ignore this.
Violent incidents continue across the country, except in Afrikaner territory in the Transvaal and Orange Free State. On February 11, a Royal Navy task force arrives off Cape Town and lands a brigade-sized force made up of the South Wales Borderers Regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Simultaneously, an Indian Army force lands at Durban, made up of the 18th Royal Garlwal Rifles, the 11th Sikh Regiment and the 8th Punjab Regiment.
Although there are some violent encounters with Afrikaner units, the white population of the two areas is mostly English-descended and they greet the Imperial units with open arms. Liberal and Socialist South African politicians arrive in Cape Town and declare the “legitimate” reopening of the South African Parliament.
Afrikaner units of the South African army gradually fall back towards Pretoria and Johannesburg, blowing up bridges along the way. The National Party, itself now declared an outlaw organization by the Imperial Parliament, passes a declaration of independent from the British Empire and the establishment of the “Boer Republic.”
British and Indian regiments, along with loyal units of the South African army, slowly follow the retreating Afrikaners but are careful to avoid a serious engagement. Attempts are made to reach the Afrikaner leadership so as to open negotiations, but these attempts are ignored. By this time, the charismatic Boer leader B. J. Vorster had gained control of the National Party and had declared himself President of the Boer Republic.
In Cape Town, the officially-recognized South African Parliament, with no National Party members, passes legislation which completely undoes the apartheid system. They go further, announcing initiatives for economic development and education reform in black areas. They also begin recruiting of blacks into the South African armies, organizing them into units called “impis,” the Zulu word for regiment.
Although the South African crisis (which is already being termed the “Third Boer War”) dominates the headlines, other event are taking place across the world.
In New Zealand, the legal equality of Maori subjects is enshrined in law. A few months later, a similar law is passed with regard to aborigines in Australia. Both groups, however, largely maintain their traditional ways of life. Politicians in both Dominions use the opportunity to laud how “civilized” and “advanced” their states are when compared to the racial chaos sweeping South Africa.
The racial issues raised by South Africa spill over into the political discourse of the United States, where Southern blacks have begun agitating for their rights in a stronger manner. Demonstrations for equal rights are usually broken up by police, which results in rioting and much violence.
In Indochina, Vietnamese nationalists initiate a guerrilla campaign against French rule. While largely ineffective, numerous terrorist attacks in large cities cause a good deal of trouble. French troops reinforce the colonial army already in position.
In early January, Imperial forces slowly work their way into Boer territory. The Boer units engage in guerrilla warfare, avoiding the large Imperial units and attacking supply lines and depots. As months pass, reinforcements arrive from other Dominions and Imperial forces gradually expand their control over Boer territory.
A key element in the Imperial strategy is to do as little material damage as possible and to avoid provoking the Afrikaner civilian population. With the lessons of the Second Boer War clearly in mind, the Imperial forces wish to avoid turning the civilian population into bitter enemies. This is not only for the successful prosecution of the war, but to win the peace after the conflict is over.
It had been intended to hold the new black impis of the loyal South African army in rear areas, guarding supply lines and other such duties. The guerrilla tactics of the Boers brings them into combat, however, and the Imperial military officers are delighted as they perform quite effectively.
Nehru, in his role as Foreign Secretary, visits Cape Town and meets with local officials. He makes a widely-publicized speech on May 24, laying out Imperial policies for South Africa. Order is to be restored as soon as possible, and the Afrikaner population will maintain equal rights as British subjects once hostilities end. However, a fair and equitable political system will be created, so as to prevent the Afrikaner minority from controlling the government of the Dominion. The economic and educational reforms initiated by the Cape Town Parliament the previous year shall be continued and augmented, with further financial assistance coming from the rest of the Empire.
Russian pressure on the Chinese government has lasted for a number of years. Russia remains in effective control of Manchuria and also has great influence in far-western China. Hoping to resist further encroachments, China begins the large-scale purchase of British weapons and equipment and requests British assistance in training their military.
Nehru counsels against such a deal, fearing that it will provoke Russia and that, in any event, the Empire must focus on restoring order in South Africa. But the Imperial Minister of War, Ralph Honner of Australia, feels that it may divert Russian attention away from the Middle East, which he considers most critical to Imperial interests. In the face of these arguments, Macmillan decides to accept the Chinese proposal.
Russian army officers are outraged when they learn that the British Empire will be supplying China with weaponry, including modern tanks and heavy artillery. The Chinese have gradually become more resistant to Russian pressure, and the possibility of British support makes the Russian position in Manchuria and western China less tenable.
The European Defense Organization (which now also includes Italy, the Low Countries and Austria) holds a series of conference on what to do in the event of a conflict between the British Empire and Russia. The main conclusion is that neutrality would not only be the best policy, but would help keep the war limited and reduce potential damage and loss of life. It is also believed that the British would win the war rather easily.
Imperial forces capture Pretoria and Johannesburg, ending conventional resistance in South Africa. The Parliament returns to its old home in Pretoria. Although sporadic guerrilla resistance continues for some months, the Third Boer War is effectively over.
B. J. Vorster gives himself up and encourages other Boer leaders to do the same. He is tried for treason against the Empire and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The leniency of the sentence is seen as a gesture of goodwill to the Afrikaner people, who continue to regard him as a hero.
The South African Parliament announces new elections are to be held, in which all South Africans shall have the right to vote, regardless of race. The logistics of such an election are immense, as the isolated villages and shantytowns are scattered through the Dominion. The Imperial Parliament creates a special task force to oversee the election.
Almost immediately, a series of new political parties springs up in South Africa, representing various black African interests who have long been excluded from political participation. The Liberal Party make a strong effort to win black support, pointing to their role in bringing political equality to the Dominion, but many all-black organizations are also coming into being, such as the Zulu People’s Party and the Xhosa League.
Events in South Africa are being closely watched in other British African territory. Black-owned newspapers are springing up everywhere, as education and literacy levels of black Africans in British territory have been steadily rising. Due to Imperial Parliament policies pushed by the Indian National Congress, economic development and school funding has been gradually increasing.
Russia responds to the increasing British involvement in China by stepping up its intelligence activities in Central Asia and the Middle East. The chief of the MI6 station in Kabul is assassinated by Afghan thugs believed to have been hired by Russia agents, and similar “dirty tricks” are mounted against British interests in Iraq and Persia.
Using a clause in their treaty with the Emir of Kuwait, the British dispatch a brigade to Kuwait to protect British oil facilities against possible sabotage by Russian agents. The brigade is made up of the 10th Gurkha Rifles and the Royal Australian Regiment of Perth.
The Great Game continues in Central Asia and the Middle East. A covert British team escorted by an elite platoon of Gurkhas infiltrates into Kurdistan to make contact with rebel elements who are opposed to Russian influence over their country. They survive numerous Russian attempts to intercept them, but are not successful in persuading the rebels to launch an uprising against the pro-Russian Kurdish government. This is only one of numerous such espionage exploits underway at the time, with both sides engaged in extensive intelligence and counterintelligence in a vast region from Turkey to Tibet.
Elections in the Dominion of South Africa are marred when several bombs explode at polling locations in black areas. An organization called the Afrikaner Freedom Front claims responsibility for the attacks, which kill and wound several people.
Despite the violence, elections are held to be fair and the results are declared a few days later. The Liberal Party, with a large block of support from both black and English-descended subjects, wins a strong majority of 60%, achieving uncontested power in both the South African Parliament and the South African delegation to the Imperial Parliament. The National Party gains only 13% of the vote, while the Zulu People’s Party and the Xhosa League each gain about 10%. The remainder of the vote is gained by the Socialists and other minor parties.
Talks in Egypt continue, though progress is limited. Radical nationalists refuse to meet with the British and insist on a full withdrawal. Moderate nationalists meet regularly with the British and are willing to consider a continued British in the Suez Canal Zone. However, a number of liberal, secular parties have begun to entertain the idea of seeking Dominion status, particularly in view of the progress being made in Palestine (whose economy is largely dependent on Imperial Preference).
The Russian Empire begins large-scale construction of submarine bases around the Arctic port of Murmansk. At the same time, large numbers of submarines are under construction, not particularly advanced but easy to produce in large numbers. In the event of war with the British Empire, the Russian war plan calls for a concentrated submarine campaign against merchant shipping around the British Isles.
The first jet fighter of the Royal Air Force, the Wellington, enters squadron service. It is considered by some to be the greatest military innovation since the launch of the Dreadnought.
French troops continue their efforts to crush the Indochinese insurgency, but have little success. At the same time, the rebels have little prospect of pushing the French out of the major cities. No political solution appears likely, as the French are unwilling to enter into negotiations without a prior commitment to the continuation of French authority, while the rebels insist on independence as the basis of any deal.
Newspapers in the United Kingdom delight in comparing French difficulties in their former colonies without the progress being made throughout the British Empire.
A mediocre and mostly unknown artist/architect named Adolph Hitler dies in Munich. He had never achieved much in life and, in his old age, was dependent on a state pension from the German government, to which he was entitled because of his service in the Great War.
In Armenia, a protest against encroaching Russian influence over their country turns into a violent riot, with police barely able to prevent the mob from attacking the Russian embassy. The protesters denounce the de facto control over Armenian foreign policy possessed by Russia and are outraged that the economy of Armenia is dependent almost entirely upon trade with Russia. The Armenian Democratic Party, which has a generally pro-British outlook, calls in parliament for a trade treaty with the British Empire.
Similar demonstrations have become increasingly common in Armenia, as well as Kurdistan, Iraq and Persia (except in southern Persia, where the British are seen as the negative influence due to their control over the Persian oil economy). Russia demands that the governments of these countries crack down on the anti-Russian elements, while the British have begun covertly providing funds to sponsor such political parties.
Prompted by the new political power of black South Africans, as well as the Indian National Congress (always eager to reduce the power of the “White Dominions” within the Imperial Parliament), government reforms in British African territory accelerate. In Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania, advisory councils elected by the local population are brought into being, serving to assist the local administration, which is still in the hands of the Colonial Service of the Imperial Parliament. At the same time, South Africa is pressing for the territories on its northern border, Bechuanaland and Rhodesia, to be incorporated directly into the Dominion of South Africa.
Racial tensions are on the rise in the American South, as black militants demanding the right to vote clash repeatedly with police and white vigilantes. The Democratic Party, which controls the political apparatus in the South, becomes increasingly hard-line in its opposition to black suffrage, while the Republican Party, still holding most power in the North, is moving towards a position more supportive of black voting rights, seeing an opportunity to break the Democratic hold on larger Northern cities such as New York and Chicago.
In India, a dissatisfied faction of the Indian National Congress, unhappy with the economic performance of the party, walk out and form a new organization, the Indian Populist Party. Whereas the Indian National Congress is Hindu-dominated, the Indian Populist attempts to gain an image as an “all-India” party and is successful in attracting some Muslim and Sikh members.
King Edward VIII is killed in a helicopter accident. Conspiracy theories claim Russian involvement, but these are dismissed by all except a few eccentrics. No evidence is ever found to suggest it was anything other than an unfortunate accident.
Prince Andrew, then staying at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, is immediately proclaimed King Andrew I. His official title is His Britannic Majesty Andrew I, By the Grace of God King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, King of Ireland and the British Dominions Beyond the Sea, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.
A period of mourning is declared for King Edward. Although he was never regarded as a particular dynamic monarch and was known for his extramarital affairs, his reign had seen the complete transformation of the British Empire.
King Andrew’s twelve-year old son, Robert, is proclaimed Prince of Wales.
On March 7, the Russian embassy in the Armenian capital of Erzurum is destroyed by a massive car bomb. Over fifty people are killed, including the Russian ambassador. The Russians blame the British for the attack, with the British truthfully claim they have no idea who was behind it. (In later years, it would be revealed that Russian intelligence agents carried out the attack themselves, so as to blame it on the British.)
In response to the Erzurum attack, as well as the “series of provocations from the British over the last several years, aided and abetted by the countries of the Middle East,” Russia issues what would become known as the “Three Demands” to Armenia, Kurdistan, Syria, Iraq, Persia and Afghanistan. First, it demands that all six states break diplomatic relations with the British Empire and end all trade with it. Second, it demands that all six states sign a treaty of alliance with the Russian Empire that will give Russian de facto control over their foreign and defense policies. Third, it demands that each state host a Russian military garrison in its capital.
The world is stunned by the Russian announcement and the British Empire immediately declares that the Russian action is unacceptable. Immediately, an emergency meeting of the Imperial Defense Committee is called in London.
The threat to the British Empire is very grave, for Russian control of the six threatened states would pose a direct threat to the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. Indeed, most British military planners believe that Russian occupation of the six states would be followed immediately by an offensive into the Persian Gulf region. The only major force in the region are two British regiments in Kuwait.
The European Defense Organization and the United States send protests to Russia but otherwise take no action. As the countries of the EDO import most of their oil from French and Italian African territory, and the United States produces most of its own oil (and imports the rest from Western Hemisphere sources), the Russian move is not as direct a threat to them as it is to the British, who are entirely dependent upon Middle East oil.
Japan, which is also dependent on Middle East oil, informs the British that they be willing to assist the British in the event of any war with Russia. The Persian Gulf States themselves are terrified at the possibility of a Russian attack and appeal for British help.
The Imperial Defense Committee decides to reinforce British troops in the Persian Gulf, as well as dispatch an aircraft carrier battle group to the region. At the same time, the Dominion of India mobilizes additional troops to defend the Northwest Frontier.
When the six threatened states prevaricate in responding to Russian demands, Russia begins moving troops into their territory on May 14. The conventional armies of the invaded states fall apart almost immediately, although some put up minor resistance. Within weeks, hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers are occupying strategic positions in Armenia, Kurdistan, Syria, Iraq, Persia and Afghanistan.
Puppet governments are installed, which immediately accede to Russian demands. The British Empire demands that Russian forces withdraw to their own territory. At the same time, representatives from the original governments arrive in London or (in the case of Persia and Afghanistan) Delhi and set up governments-in-exile.
On June 1, Russian troops exchange fire with British forces along the Kuwaiti border as well as in the Khyber Pass. Declaring that they have been attacked by British forces, the Russians declare a state of war exists between the Russian Empire and the British Empire.
Throughout June, Russian forces drive into Kuwait and move down the coast of the Persian Gulf. Outnumbered, British forces retreat slowly. As reinforcements arrive, the retreat slows but continues. The Royal Navy makes great use of naval gunfire support and carrier air strikes to inflict damage on the Russians and attack their supply lines.
On the Northwest Frontier, Russian forces attempt to punch through the Khyber Pass but are stalled by Indian regiments facing them. The Sikhs in particularly fight tenaciously, as their homeland is directly threatened by the Russian offensive; the Russians come to greatly fear the Sikhs. Over the course of a month, the Russians gradually push out of the pass, suffering heavy casualties while doing so.
In the east, the Japanese fulfill their pledge to the British and attack Russian positions in Manchuria. The Russians, for reasons never fully explained, did not expect this and are taken by surprise. Still, the Russian army in Manchuria is still large and fights with determination.
At sea, Russia submarines from Murmansk sortie to attack British shipping around the United Kingdom. Although the submarines are rather primitive, their cheapness has allowed very large numbers to be constructed. By the summer, they are wrecking havoc on British shipping.
In general, the fighting on all fronts is characterized by superior British technical and tactical skill being set against Russian numerical superiority. Russia, having become a largely militarized society, has a vast army, but it is already being said that the average Imperial regiment can take on a Russian unit two or three times is size.
Throughout the fall and into the winter, Russian forces continue to push down the Persian Gulf coast and pour troops through the Khyber Pass into the Northwest Frontier. In Manchuria, Russian reinforcements stall the Japanese offensive. Russian submarines continue to attack British shipping around the British Isles. At the same time, British intelligence operatives and special forces begin organizing guerrilla resistance movements within the six occupied countries.
The war between the Russian Empire and British Empire dominates the event of the day. The economy of the British Empire is under heavy pressure, with oil in short supply despite the willingness of the French to sell their oil at decent price. With Russian submarine attacks sinking many ships around the United Kingdom, the Westminster Parliament is forced to enact rationing on many products.
Concerned about the possibility of a long war with the Russian Empire, the Imperial Defense Committee, in strict secrecy, launches a program to explore the possibility of atomic weapons, which have thus far been only theoretical.
In the Persian Gulf, with the Russians on the verge of occupying the vital Arabian oil fields, the Imperial forces embark on a daring ploy. Under the guns of Royal Navy and protected by jet fighters flying from the carriers Formidable and Courageous, Royal Marines make an amphibious landing at Khafji, far north of the front lines on March 1. The attack takes the Russians completely by surprise and places British troops squarely along the Russian supply lines. At the same time, Imperial forces to the south, strongly reinforced by South African units (many of them being new all-black impi regiments) launch a counter attack.
The Russian army in the Persian Gulf turns north and attempts to fight its way out of the British trap. In a series of confused battles over the next several days, the Russian army becomes disorganized and is forced to abandon most of its heavy equipment. Although many of the Russian soldiers find their way past British lines, most are forced to surrender. The Khafji Campaign goes down in history as one of the triumphs of British arms.
The news on the other fronts is equally good for the British. With the Indian Army fully mobilized, several set-piece battles take place along the Northwest Frontier. Although the Russians do fairly well when resisting counter attacks, they are unable to advance further. Air attacks on the supply line through the Khyber Pass greatly weaken their supply situation. It is a source of pride to the Dominion of India that the campaign sees the Indian Air Force operate largely on its own, with only marginal support from the Royal Air Force, which is deployed mostly in the Persian Gulf.
In Manchuria, Japanese forces continue to make gains, as Russian troops are withdrawn to reinforce the collapsing Middle Eastern front.
Around the British Isles, the Royal Navy has gradually developed new anti-submarine tactics and begun to design new anti-submarine vessels. This, combined with a series of major carrier air strikes against Russian submarine bases around Murmansk, begins to reduce the effectiveness of the attacks.
By July, in scorching heat, a large Imperial army is advancing into Iraq, while anti-Russian uprisings are taking place throughout the six occupied nations. On August 7, British troops march into Baghdad. Persian oil installations are being occupied by Australian and New Zealand troops, who successfully prevent Russian effort to destroy them as they retreat.
In late summer, after more than a year of fighting, a large Royal Navy task force, including two carriers, moves into the Baltic Sea, preparing to attack Russian facilities and perhaps even St. Petersburg itself. With its forces in retreat everywhere, the Russian government sues for peace on September 7. The Russo-Imperial War has ended.
The world is impressed both by the cohesiveness displayed by the British Empire during its conflict with Russia and by the performance of its military. Repeatedly, Imperial troops defeated Russian forces which greatly outnumbered them, through a combination of superior technology, superior training and superior tactics. What most impresses military observers, however, is the high level of morale and élan displayed by the Imperial regiments.
The war has a number of important diplomatic impacts. Russian influence in the Middle East is severely curtailed. In response to the Russian aggression, the British Empire signs security treaties with the six occupied nations: Armenia, Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria, Persia and Afghanistan, forming the Middle Eastern Security Area. While all remain independent, the treaty pledges the Empire to defend them and stipulates that none of them will sign similar treaties with other nations unless Britain agrees to it. The rest of the world considers them to have become, in effect, British protectorates.
The Royal Geographical Society protests the name of the treaty, claiming that Afghanistan is in “South Asia” rather than the “Middle East.” No one pays much attention, though.
In the east, with Japanese support having been invaluable to the British, a treaty of alliance and mutual defense is concluded between the British Empire and Japan. Russian influence in Manchuria is virtually eliminated and the territory returned to China, although Japanese commercial interests are protected and certain other rights reserved.
Although the European Defense Organization did not intervene in the war, it did provide intelligence support to the British, prevented Russian vessels from passing through the Baltic to attack British shipping and allowed the Royal Navy to enter in the Baltic in the latter stages of the war. The French were also generous in providing emergency oil to Britain when their Persian Gulf supplies were under threat. Relations between the EDO and the British Empire are therefore quite cordial, although there is no suggestion of an alliance between them.
Relations between the United States and the British Empire are not improved by the war. American newspaper editorials during the conflict, while far from pro-Russian, expressed some pleasure at the initial reverses suffered by the British, insinuating that they deserved to be taught a lesson and that the world might be better off had British power been reduced. While official ties remain friendly and a strong minority of the people remain pro-British, there is a distinct resentment of British power among the American population.
In Russia, even more so than in the aftermath of the War for Polish Independence, a conservative and xenophobic reaction takes hold of the country. The Czarist government is attacked for incompetence and Anglophobia sweeps the country.
In the wake of euphoria following the Empire’s victory over Russia, the Imperial Parliament pushes through a series of measures to reform the political framework of the Empire.
A referendum in Malaya results in an appeal to the Imperial Parliament for Dominion status. No major political forces comes out in opposition to such a measure, aside from a few British Nationalist decrying the increasing “Muslim element” in the British Empire. Dominion status for Malaya is approved with little debate and much celebration. Plans are laid for elections to be held the following year.
Bechuanaland and Rhodesia are directly incorporated into the Dominion of South Africa. In the meantime, debates are held regarding the possibility of forming Nigeria and British East Africa into the Imperial Parliament as independent Dominions. By this point, the majority of administrative positions within the government are held by black Africans themselves, graduates of the technical schools which have been established in the region. Elected advisory councils have done excellent work, and Dominion status seems to be a logical next step.
Smaller entities within the Empire, such as Hong Kong, Malta, Aden and Gibraltar, present a more complicated problem. Clearly too small to be Dominions themselves, the people still express a desire for self-government. It is proposed that Hong Kong be administered as part of Malaya, but this is rejected by Hong Kong itself. Debates over the issue continue.
The Imperial Defense Committee launches a series of investigations and studies regarding the performance of the Imperial military during the Russo-Imperial War. While all express their delight at the combat record of all branches, it is hoped that close scrutiny could result in improvements.
After a debate in the Imperial Parliament, with the Tory faction putting up strong resistance, the title “Defender of the Faith” is altered to “Defender of the Faiths.” It is intended to express the importance of all the various religions in the Empire. It is also hoped that it will benefit the Egyptian faction seeking Dominion status, as they would no longer be required to proclaim loyalty to a monarch whose title could be interpreted as hostile to Islam.
France has largely stamped out the rebellion in Indochina, but it has become clear to policy-makers in Paris that direct rule will no longer be effective and will only lead to further difficulties in the future. Much discussion is had regarded the best approach to take.
In U.S. Presidential elections, Republican Charles Carpenter of Maine is elected in a decisive landslide, with Republicans winning both houses of Congress as well. Only in the South, where hard-line opposition to civil rights continues, did the Democrats prevail. President Carpenter announces a program of black enfranchisement, combined with important economic reforms to stimulate the American economy. He pledges “good relations with the nations of the world, particularly the British Empire, so long as they do not act against the interests of the United States.”
In a referendum in the Philippines, the people are presented with three choices: statehood, independence or a continuation of the status quo, which is that of a self-governing “commonwealth” under American military protection. Statehood receives roughly 30%, independence also 30%, with commonwealth status winning with 40%.
Winston Churchill passes away. In commemoration of his role in pushing through the Statute of Westminster and creating the modern structure of the British Empire, he is given a state funeral in Westminster Abbey.
In British elections, the Liberals gain control of Westminster while the Tories hold onto control of the delegation to the Imperial Parliament. Surprising many observers, the Scottish National Party wins seven seats in the Westminster Parliament and one in the Imperial Parliament. Political analysts claim that Ireland’s success as an independent Dominion has given the idea of Scottish independence renewed strength. The official policy of the SNP is for Scotland to be allowed to leave the United Kingdom and participate in the Empire as an independent Dominion like Ireland.
The Liberals and Tories, partially to counter the rising threat of the SNP, appoint Scots to head the respective Parliaments. Malcolm Forbes, Liberal MP for Dundee, becomes the Westminster Prime Minister, while Geoffrey Hay, Conservative MIP for Aberdeen, becomes the Imperial Prime Minister. Hay in particular in considered flamboyant and energetic.
In Russia, a group of right-wing military officers, most of them veterans of the Khyber Pass Campaign, issue a demand for the governmental structure of the Russian Empire to be changed. The believe that the war with the British was lost because the Czar and his political advisors interfered in military affairs too much. The officers insist that the Army and Navy be given direct control over the military administration of Russia.
Two Guards regiments take control of key installations around St. Petersburg. An armored division under the control of the dissident generals takes up a position north of Moscow, ready to move into the city unless the government capitulates.
After being made aware that other Russian army units would be unwilling to fire on their own comrades, the Czar and his supporters cave in. General Mikhail Malinovsky, a veteran of battles against the Japanese and the British Empire, is installed as War Minister. In fact, with his supporters stuffed into numerous offices and the army fiercely loyal to him, Malinovksy has become a de facto military dictator.
A stature of Winston Churchill is dedicated on the fourth plinth in the northwestern corner of Trafalgar Square, in commemoration of the Statute of Westminster. King Andrew gives a well-received speech for the occasion, praising Churchill’s dedication to the Empire and his love for the “British way of life.”
The Imperial Defense Committee, acting on the recommendations of several reports issued in the wake of the Russo-British War, launch a series of reforms within the Imperial military and defense establishment. While every Dominion has its own intelligence operation (India, for example, running the “Raj Political Service”) it is decided to centralize Imperial intelligence activities under a single organization: His Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service. HMSIS is given jurisdiction over all Dominion intelligence operations.
At the same time, all Dominion armies are placed under the overall control of the Imperial General Staff in London. Each Dominion appoints a senior general to serve on IGS, and although it is not officially stated, it is assumed that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff shall always be the senior general from the United Kingdom. A similar system is set up to control the Royal Navy.
In Egypt, it is decided to put the question of independence versus Dominion status to a referendum, although Egypt has no experience with such democratic processes. With Gurkha troops providing security (as has become common practice), the elections are scheduled for the following year.
The Imperial Parliament appoints a task force to recommend how to improve the governmental structures of the member states of the Middle Eastern Security Area. Much of their territory remains in disorder, and raids by Afghan tribes across the Northwest Frontier remain a problem.
In the Imperial Cup, held in the Indian city of Hyberdad, New Zealand stuns the world by coming back from behind and beating Australia 4-3. It is considered by many to be the greatest football game ever played.
France opens the first session of the Indochinese Assembly, which is empowered to provide an advisory role to the French colonial government appointed by Paris. Many Vietnamese nationalist groups boycott the election and carry out attacks against those who participate in them. Nevertheless, the French insist the plan is working and are considering similar programs for other colonial territories.
A tenth of the population residing in Great Britain is now either an immigrant from the Raj or born in Britain of Indian descent. At the same time, the Anglo-Indian population in the Raj is booming, making up nearly 3% of the Dominion’s population.
In a referendum, Egypt votes against Dominion status and instead chooses to be an independent nation within the Middle Eastern Security Area. The Imperial Parliament immediately begins implementing the necessary measures to bring this into effect. As part of the transfer of sovereignty, however, the Egyptians give up all rights to the Suez Canal Zone, which is established as, in effect, a large military base under the direct control of the Empire.
The British colonies in the Caribbean are organized into the West Indian Confederation, with an assembly meeting on Barbados. Along with places like Aden, Gibraltar and others, the Imperial Parliament does not know exactly what their final status should be, as they are too small to be a Dominion on their own.
In Russia, Malinovsky seems to care little about foreign affairs. Observers conclude that Russia is on its way to becoming a strictly isolationist state, though little news emerges from St. Petersburg.
From a launching base in British Guiana, the first man-made satellite is launched into Earth orbit. Called “Bulldog,” it is nothing more than a simple radio transmitter, but it is seen as a triumph of Imperial technology. Plans are made to launch other satellites for scientific and technological reasons.
The event takes the world by surprise and other nations begin work on their own satellite programs. In a bid to improve its image with the Americans, the Empire offers assistance to the United States in developing such a program. The government is ambivalent about this, and the American people feel insulted.
The Imperial Parliament passes the Crown Colony Regulation Act, which systemizes that government of Imperial areas too small to be Dominions. Each Crown Colony is to have complete self-government, with its own elected assembly and elected Commissioner. While not having a vote in the Imperial Parliament, it has the right to appeal to the Parliament and to have its case heard.
In a far-reaching legal decision, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London rules that a law in the Raj which had prevented an “untouchable” from gaining admission to a select school is “contrary to the established constitutional order of the British Empire.” In effect, the ruling attempts to make the ancient Hindu caste system a violation of Imperial law. This outrages many in the Raj (though many cheered the decision). The case sets a critical legal precedent in having the Privy Council in London overrule a court decision in a Dominion, thus firmly establishing the Privy Council as the de facto “supreme court” of the Empire.
More satellites are launched, mostly carrying scientific experiments. Plans are laid for communication satellites to be launched, thus allowing easier communication across the Empire. The Royal Air Force also begins secretly funding plans for camera-carrying “spy satellites” to see what is happening within Russia.
Unwilling to allow the British Empire sole access to space, other nations begin launching satellites as well. Over the course of the year, the United States, Russia and Japan launch their initial satellites, with France soon to follow. Germany, comfortable in its alliance with France, declines to participate. Most of the satellites launched are scientific experiments or experimental communications satellites.
The Imperial Defense Committee releases a secret report on the possibility of creating atomic weapons. Although they conclude that it is theoretically possible, they emphasize that the cost would be immense. The members of the Imperial Parliament who are briefed on the subject order the report to be highly classified, as “it would be against all human morality to develop such monstrous weapons.” At the same time, Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service is quietly ordered to monitor other nations for any hint that they are developing such weapons.
With a newly-elected center-right government, France proposes to the other members of the European Defense Organization that they expand from a purely military sphere into an economic and political sphere as well. Discussions are held between member states concerning a number of issues concerning this idea. Many grumble that France simply wants to reshape the alliance into a French-dominated Confederation.
British military forces in Egypt have completed their withdrawal, while a number of British military and air bases have been set up in the Suez Canal Zone. Egypt signs a mutual defense and assistance treaty with the British Empire, with the understanding that Egypt can call upon British assistance in the event of domestic turmoil.
A British robotic probe becomes the first man-made object to photograph the far side of the Moon. All space-faring nations are preparing robotic probes to explore the Moon, Mars and Venus, including many joint projects between nations. Space science becomes a popular subject. The Royal Society is given jurisdiction over the space program of the British Empire.
Under the principle that “gentlemen do not read one another’s mail,” a treaty is signed between space-faring nations pledging that satellites designed to spy on the territory of other nations shall not be launched.
Many technical schools and universities in the United States and Continental Europe report with alarm at a so-called “brain drain” to the United Kingdom, which is seen as having superior science and technology programs. Similarly, universities in India are gaining a reputation as the best civil engineering schools in the world.
Egypt enters into negotiations with the other member states of the Middle Eastern Security Area to create a loose federation to be allied to the British Empire, though strictly maintaining its sovereignty.
Two new Dominions are created: West Africa and East Africa. West Africa comprises the territory of Nigeria and also has jurisdiction over other scattered Imperial territory along the West African coast. Eastern Africa comprises Northern Rhodesia, former German East Africa, Kenya and Uganda.
In the Imperial Cup, held in Cape Town, India wins over Scotland 4-2. The Scots had been the underdogs and the very fact that they got to the championship was a source of pride for many Scots; the SNP made much play of it.
The Empire in 1970:
It is a good time to provide a general assessment of the British Empire as it existed in 1970.
In addition to the United Kingdom, there are ten Dominions: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, South Africa, Malaya (which includes north Borneo), Palestine, West Africa and East Africa. Each Dominion has its own parliament, which has authority over all matters of purely local concern.
The Imperial Parliament in London has jurisdiction over foreign policy, defense and trade issues. The United Kingdom elects 100 seats to the Imperial Parliament, India 50, Canada 40, Australia and South Africa 30 each, and the remainder 20 each. This is not done on the basis of population, but on the “overall influence on Imperial institutions.”
It is likely that the United Kingdom will always dominate the Imperial Parliament. Although various coalitions could theoretically create a government without British representatives, in practice this is seen as impossible. The head of government has always been the leader of the largest British party in the Imperial Parliament. Despite occasional grumblings, particularly from Indian representatives, there is little support for changing the status quo.
The so-called “White Dominions” (Canada, Australia and New Zealand) along with the United Kingdom, have two major parties (one left-of-center and one right-of center) and a scattering of smaller parties. New Zealand also has a major party made up of members of the Maori minority. The Indian Raj, the Dominion of South Africa and Palestine have parties largely based on ethnicity and/or religion.
Each Dominion maintains several independent regiments, each with its own distinct history and traditions. The overall leadership of the military is coordinated by the Imperial General Staff in London, supervised by the civilian Committee on Imperial Defense. The United Kingdom and the Indian Ray provide the bulk of the regiments, and several British regiments are stationed in other Dominions.
Similarly, each Dominion pays for several warships, all coordinated by the Admiralty in London. The Royal Navy has major fleets in every ocean: the Home Fleet based in Portsmouth, the Mediterranean Fleet based in Malta, the Indian Ocean Fleet based in Bombay and the Pacific Ocean Fleet based in Singapore. Smaller squadrons are scattered throughout the world.
The Royal Air Force is made up of squadrons contributed from each Dominion. Although technically a separate service, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Imperial General Staff. The warplanes flown by each Dominion are of the same design, although aeronautical companies from different Dominions have developed different aircraft. The Avenger, the Empire’s main air superiority fighter, was developed in the United Kingdom, while the Hammerer, the Empire’s main ground attack aircraft, was developed in India.
The Imperial General Staff and the Admiralty are made up of high-ranking officers from all Dominions. In the IGS, each Dominion is represented in more or less the same fashion as in the Imperial Parliament. The Admiralty, however, is completely dominated by British officers.
London is the financial center of the Empire. The “Square Mile” in the City of London is the location of the London Stock Exchange and the location of most major companies. In addition, Britain is the center of technological development, the services industry, and remains a powerful industrial player. Scotland is the scene of numerous research labs and technical universities and thus has gained a niche as the center of the Imperial computer industry. Glasgow remains one of the main ship-building centers in the world.
The Indian Raj, with its vast pool of cheap labor and a steadily-rising education rate, is the industrial center of the Empire, producing the majority of its manufactured goods. The Bombay Stock Exchange is the second largest in the Empire. It is also a major agricultural exporter.
Other Dominions have efficient mixed-economies, although many are highly dependent on agriculture. Australia is often referred to as the “breadbasket of the Empire” as it exports huge amounts of grain and cattle. South Africa is the source of raw materials on account of its mining industries (it also produces the best wine in the Empire, although Australia and New Zealand are beginning to compete). Canada is the most economically diverse of all Dominions, with industry, finance and agriculture all playing important roles.
Because of Imperial Preference, there are no trade barriers whatsoever between Dominions. The resultant free-trade zone has, in effect, become an economy removed from the remainder of the world. Obviously, there is extensive trade between Dominions and nations outside the Empire, but Dominions within the Empire are always seen as more attractive trading partners. This has caused a lot of grumbling from other nations, particularly the United States, and has in turn caused them to seek trading partners other than the Empire.
The pound sterling issued by the Bank of England is the common currency of the Empire. The largest multinational bank in the Empire is the Rothschild Bank, which has major establishments in every Dominion and is also a major investor in several large-scale projects.
Because the Empire is the dominant political force in the Middle East, it has easy access to the world’s largest oil reserves. This gives it a geopolitical and economic advantage over Continental Europe, which has no domestic oil supplies of its own. Russia and the United States (so far) have relied mostly on their own domestic production.
The Empire has a wide variety of different musical genres. The industrial towns of northern England have seen a number of unorthodox musical acts emerge in recent years, with Western-style music being infused with African and Indian influences to produce truly unique musical styles. Classical music remains popular.
Indian food is, by far, the most popular cuisine in the Empire, although British and Irish beer remain the beverages of choice. Others have noted the steady rise in wine consumption among the higher-classes in Britain, with South African, Australian and New Zealand wine being favored over French and Italian due to its lower price (which is a consequence of Imperial Preference). Another major British cultural export is the pub; nearly every town in every Dominion has a pub, and they are the most common sights for local political meetings.
The Empire is utterly football-mad. Every four years, the Empire nearly comes to a halt to watch the Imperial Cup, played in a different Dominion every year. It is pointed out with some smug satisfaction that England has never actually won the Imperial Cup, although its team is always ranked very high. The Dominions do not bother to compete in football competitions outside of the Empire, which are seen as dull and irrelevant.
With a new influx of African representatives to the Imperial Parliament, funding for a series of investment and development projects is allocated to much of British African territory. Called the Orkar Scheme, after the Nigerian MIP who was one of the main proponents of the project, it involves a massive rural electrification effort (including the construction of vast amounts of hydroelectric projects), education initiatives to foster small businesses, massive investment in transportation infrastructure and a variety of public health projects. The states goal is to raise the standard of living for African subjects of the Empire to the same level as those in the “White Dominions.”
Many people in Britain and the White Dominions are skeptical as to whether this is a practical project, but few are openly opposed to it. The only real opposition comes from Indian MIPS, who feel that similar funding should be provide to the Raj.
In the Russian Empire, laws are passed placing further restrictions of the economic activities of Jews and Muslims. This is seen as part of an increasingly strident nationalism within the Russian Empire. The Muslim population of Central Asia is growing increasingly restive.
The Arab League is founded in Cairo, under the symbolic leadership of King Hussein, the Hashemite ruler of Arabia. The members of the League include all the Arab nations within the Middle Eastern Security Area. Although technically a loose confederation, the League has relatively little power over the member states.
A series of bomb attacks are carried out in Central Asia, targeting Russian military facilities and bars where Russian soldiers congregate. Many are killed. The Russian authorities blame Muslim extremists for the attacks and respond with repressive measures.
The Orkar Scheme commences, with large amounts of Imperial investment being made in transportation, health and education in the British territories in Africa. At the same time, thousands of young and idealistic men and women from Britain and the White Dominions volunteer to serve in Africa as teachers, particularly in the teaching of English but also in teaching technical skills.
The Belgian Congo, having achieved basic self-government in the 1950s, is the scene of major disorder when the commander of the Congo Self-Defense Force, General Eugene Lokongo, overthrows the government in a military coup. The Belgian government is unwilling to negotiate with him, but also is powerless to prevent him from taking over the country. Lokongo declared total independence from Belgium and calls upon Africans to overthrow their “European oppressors.”
The British move military forces to the border with Congo, in the fears that Lokongo’s men might make raids into British territory. The French do the same along their respective border. Media observers in Britain are quick to point out that nearly all the British and French soldiers involved, including the officers, are themselves Africans.
In India, sectarian violence between Muslims and Hindus results in several dozen deaths. The Raj deploys Sikh and Gurkha troops (who are seen as impartial) to quell the unrest, which quickly fades.
As part of the Orkar Scheme, large numbers of young Africans are sent to technical schools in Britain, India or the White Dominions, the idea being to help them improve agriculture, industry and infrastructure in the African Dominions. This is intended to continue for many years.
General Lokongo is assassinated, though no one knows by whom. Some claim it was a rival warlord, while others point their fingers at the French (which is, in fact, correct). Few suspect the British, considering them too gentlemanly to engage in outright assassination. After Lokongo is assassinated, the Congo falls into chaos. British and French troops move into the territory in order to restore order and prevent a humanitarian disaster.
Throughout the British Empire, the people approve of the dispatch of troops to the Congo, and charitable organizations are creating in many areas to raise money for relief of starvation and disease in the area. As the Belgians seem uninterested in reclaiming control over the Congo, discussions are held as to whether it might be a good idea to incorporate it into the British Empire. Not only would this be for the good of the people living there, who had never enjoyed good government, but it would allow the British to exploit the vast natural resources within the Congo.
Details begin to leak to the outside world of a massive policy of Russification initiated within the Russian Empire by Malinovsky. The public education has been greatly expanded, with the active involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church. Local languages are forbidden in the schools and all students made to speak Russian. Students are taught a version of history in which Russian defeats are watered-down or ignored altogether. Another aspect of the new education system is its insistence that everyone within the Empire is Russian and that such ethnic groups as Finns, Estonians, Ukrainians and others simply do not exist.
Although local religious traditions are largely left alone for the time being, the public role of the Orthodox Church is expanded through the use of television and radio. Other religions, including Islam, are denied the use of mass media. The government-support of the Orthodox Church is also expanded, while no such support is given to other faiths.
The Czar has become the public face of the government, appearing on television each week to announce government policy. He is entirely a puppet of Malinovsky and his military junta, but the vast majority of Russians are unaware of this and, indeed, have never heard of Malinovsky. The education system, the church and the mass media encourage the Russian people to revere the Czar as a demigod.
British agents attempting to penetrate the Russian government have a difficult time, as internal security is made a top priority by Malinovsky’s government. The secret police (called the Oprichniki or “men apart”) is everywhere, both monitoring the Russian people and looking for any sign of outsides.
Resistance to the Russification campaign is spirited, especially in Islamic Central Asia. Malinovsky works to prevent the resistance from erupting into an all-out rebellion, thinking that the passage of time will allow his plan to work and form Russia into a strong, nationalistic state.
Much of the news about what is happening in Russia comes from Russian Jews, who are continuing to leave in large numbers. A large proportion of them immigrate to Palestine.
Much of the news of this year is dominated by what many saw as a royal scandal. The younger son of King Andrew, Prince Harold, having just completed a long trip to the Indian Raj, announces his plans to marry Shreya Rao, the daughter of a high-ranking member of the Rajya Sabha (the Indian version of the House of Lords).
Prince Harold is second in the royal line of succession, after his older brother Robert, the Prince of Wales. Many conservatives are outraged that a person with a reasonable chance of becoming King would marry an Indian woman. Even worse, in their eyes, is the possibility that if the marriage goes through and anything were to happen to Prince Robert, a child of Prince Harold and Shreya Rao would eventually become the monarch, resulting in the British Empire being ruled (technically) by a half-Indian.
Others, however, find the developing positive and fascinating. Harold had always been looked upon as better-looking and more glamorous than Robert, and Shreya Rao is described as devastatingly beautiful. Many people throughout the empire rally around the pair, with their tale of true love. Their marriage is celebrated in September.
Although Prince Harold’s marriage captured the imagination of the people, other events of importance took place during the course of the year.
The Imperial Parliament places British-occupied Congo under a military government until its future status can be determined. The British and French cooperate to improve living conditions and reestablish self-government, but the chaos of the past few years is difficult to overcome.
Japan signs a 10-year renewal of its mutual assistance and defense treaty with the British Empire. At the same time, the Japanese have begun supporting a political party in Manchuria which call for the territory to declare independence from China and become an independent state allied to Japan. The Japanese are quick to reassure the British and other that they have no designs on Manchuria itself.
The Royal Navy begins designing its most advanced aircraft carrier, the Alfred the Great. Powering such a massive vessel is seen as a potential problem, and a study group is set up to explore the possibility of using atomic power (still only hypothetical) for the ship’s propulsion system.
In the United States, decades of racial strife have begun to cool down, particularly as court rulings and congressional acts have gradually expanded voting rights for black Americans. Still, the legacy of race riots causes many people in the British Empire to view America as a backward place. A common joke in Britain involves how foolish the Americans were to break away from Britain in 1776.
Prince Robert celebrates his marriage to Sophia, Duchess of Cornwall. After the excitement of the previous years marriage of Prince Harold, and the public perception of Prince Robert as something of a bore, the public is rather underwhelmed by this royal marriage.
A serious disturbance takes place in Jerusalem between fundamentalist Muslims going to worship in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Orthodox Jews worshipping at the Western Wall. Although no one is seriously hurt, the authorities in Palestine are shocked, as the incident goes against decades of religious peace in Palestine. The co-Viceroys issue a joint statement strongly condemning everyone, Jewish and Muslim, who had a hand in the dispute.
After a victory in Westminster elections, the Liberal party assuages voters in Scotland with a promised referendum on “devolution.” If passed, legislation will be introduced to create a separate Scottish Parliament, with powers similar to those enjoyed by the Irish Parliament in the period before the establishment of Ireland as an independent Dominion. To the surprise of many, and to the dismay of the SNP, the referendum fails by a considerable margin (57% to 43%). Observers cite the disproportionate influence of Scots on the British government as the main reason for the result.
The world is stunned when it is revealed that the Russian Empire has sent a man into space. Alexander Bryusov becomes the first human being in space. He orbits the Earth a few times, before landing safely in Russian Central Asia.
The Imperial Parliament is filled with angry speeches, asking why a Russian, rather than a “Briton” (a common term to refer to anyone in the British Empire) was not the first man in space. Demands are made of the government to “catch up” to the Russians.
News of the year is dominated by the three-way “space race” between Russia, America and the British Empire. Early in January, British pride receives yet another jolt when the United States becomes the second nation to successfully put a man in orbit. The British press is even more incensed about this than they had been about the Russians, since the Empire had been “upstaged by a bunch of upstarts!”
The Imperial Parliament creates the Ministry of Astronautics. Deciding that that facility in British Guiana is too remote and insufficient (and after hard lobbying from Indian MIPs), work has already begun on creating a much larger and more advanced launch facility on the Bay of Bengal coast. A secondary launch facility is under construction on Christmas Island, northwest of Australia. Wanting to “do it right,” the Ministry of Astronautics refuses to rush a man into space.
Having experienced misrule by the Belgians, political turmoil and ruthless dictatorship, the Congo is now experiencing the best governance in memory in the form of joint French-British military rule. Furthermore, many Congolese have visited British East Africa and South Africa, seeing black Africans living in vastly better conditions. As a result, many local political organizations are beginning to call for a petition that the Congo be taken permanently into the British Empire.
The French, occupying the northwestern half of the Congo, find this disturbing. Like the British, they have their eyes on the vast mineral wealth of the Congo. The French press the Belgians to maintain their original legal claim to the Congo, but they are reluctant to do so. Numerous books and articles are being published which reveal Belgian atrocities in the Congo, going back nearly a century. Popular opinion in Belgium is against having anything further to do with the Congo.
Outwardly, the British and the French maintain cordial relations on the issue, with the British and French commanders holding weekly meetings to coordinate their efforts. But beneath it all is distrust and resentment. The popular perception of Congolese in the French-occupied zone that the people living in the British zone have a “better deal” only makes the situation worse.
Part of this dispute has its roots in general economic competition between the British Empire and Continental Europe. While no single European nation comes close to matching British economic output (only the United States even comes close), the economy of all Continental Europe represents a serious economic challenge to the Empire. As measures are underway to transform the European Defense Organization into an economic and political organization as well as a military one, this aspect of the problem gains more importance in British eyes. The vast natural resources of the Congo would be a boon to the industry of either of the competing rivals.
Many Arab leaders in Palestine suggest that Palestine join the Arab League, while still remaining a full Dominion in the Empire. This suggestion is greeted with some confusion, as the constitutional issue were murky. Many Jews in Palestine were wary of it anyway, so the idea is put on the backburner.
On February 12, a Scot named James Ross becomes the first Briton in space, spending a few days in orbit after launching from southern India. The British Empire thus becomes the world’s third power to enter space, increasing the tempo of the three-way Space Race.
A primitive space station is launched by Russia, in which Russian “cosmonauts” live for weeks at a time. While displaying their space achievements to the world as a sign of superior Russian technology, the true fact is that the Russian Empire’s resources are being poured almost entirely into military and space hardware, while the consumer economy remains at virtually a late 19th Century level.
Under French auspices, the members of the European Defense Organization issue a joint “statement of understanding” which proclaims the desire to transform the EDO into a political and economic organization as well as a military one. Each member state appoints a commissioner and the joint commission begins meeting in Paris to hash out a specific treaty to implement the new goals of Europe.
British and French diplomats hold a series of meetings on the Congo issue. Because public opinion among the Congolese is pro-British, the French realize that their bargaining position is weak, and the only card they have to play is the simple fact that their military occupies half of the Congo.
On September 1, the two sides sign a treaty transferring authority over the Congo to the British Empire, while the French gain important economic concessions and full access for French companies which wish to invest in the Congo. The Belgians, who technically still rule the Congo, also sign the treaty, happy to be rid of the problem.
The Imperial Parliament now has the problem of how the Congo is to be organized. Technically remaining under British military government, administrative function are gradually turned over to Congolese members of the civil service from the pre-Lokongo days. The main question is whether to fuse the Congo into the Dominion of East Africa or, as many in the Congo desire, created a separate Dominion of Central Africa.
The debate is fierce, with many in the White Dominions calling for a fusion into East Africa. The East Africans themselves also desire this, as it will give them larger influence in the Imperial Parliament. India, South Africa and West Africa, however, favor the creation of a separate Dominion altogether.
The debate is largely academic for the time being, as governmental institutions in the Congo will not be ready to take on full self-government for some time. In the meantime, the British engage in their tried-and-true practice of developing democratic electoral systems from the ground up, beginning with local and regional councils. Because the Congo had enjoyed a large degree of self-government under the Belgians, the process runs very smoothly.
A Russian manned space mission goes horribly wrong, with three Russian cosmonauts dying horribly as their vessel reenters the Earth’s atmosphere at the wrong point and their parachute fails, crashing them into the Arabian desert. In the wake of this event, the public becomes aware that Russian space technology is vastly overrated and is, compared to British and American technology, ridiculously primitive. Angered and embarrassed, the Russians sharply curtail their space activities.
Following a minor diplomatic disagreement between Argentina and the Empire over the Falkland Islands, a state-sponsored protest at the British embassy in Buenos Aires unexpectedly turns into a full-fledged anti-British riot. Argentinean police quickly restore order. Shortly afterwards, an editorial appears in a Buenos Aires newspaper decrying the status of Argentina as “de facto British colony.” It is pointed out that there is more British investment capital in Argentina than investment capital from all other nations put together. The same is true for every South American nation. In Central America, the Americans remain the largest capital investor, though the British are close behind everywhere except Mexico.
The members of the European Defense Organization sign the Treaty of Bonn in western Germany, by which they establish a free trade area. Britain is invited to join, but states that it will only consider the proposal if it applies to the British Isles rather than the Empire as a whole. The Europeans reject this and the issue is dropped.
Seemingly insignificant at the time, this event sets off a major dispute in the Imperial Parliament. The Westminster government is sternly rebuked for even discussing the matter with the Europeans, as foreign and trade relations are the exclusive domain of the Imperial government. The Westminster government, chastised, argues that it would have brought the proposal to the Imperial Parliament had the Europeans wanted to go forward with the deal.
With Algeria and the rest of French North African territory having been “promoted” from colonies to integral parts of France, there is a large-scale migration of North African Muslims into France. On the other hand, the extension of voting rights to the Muslim citizens of North Africa has done a great deal to ease ethnic and religious tensions, with full Muslim participation in the French government. The style of Islam practice in French North African territories is considerably more relaxed than elsewhere; for example, French Muslims make and drink wine without much concern.
In Russia, General Malinovsky dies of natural causes. Rather than replace him with a new military leader, a junta of generals take control, ruling the empire as a military state, with the Czar remaining a symbolic Emperor. Little changes in the lives of everyday Russians, most of whom had never heard of Malinovksy and who believe that the Czar is indeed the actual ruler of the Russian Empire.
Oil production in the United States peaks and begins to decline, though this goes largely unnoticed at the time. Of greater concern to the Americans is the fact that an increasing proportion of the oil imports come from either Canada, a part of the British Empire, or the nations of the Arab League, which are seen as British puppets.
Following a prolonged period of civil disobedience and occasional terrorist action, and under persistent if not-too-strong pressure from the British, the Japanese concede full civil rights to Koreans.
The first self-sustaining nuclear reaction is achieved at the Cavendish Laboratories at Cambridge University. The Royal Navy, which had funded the experiment as part of its Advanced Carrier Propulsion project, keeps the news highly classified, but American agents learn about it before too long.
After a Cabinet meeting cited a need to maintain technological and scientific parity with the British Empire, Douglas Fitzsimmons, President of the United States (formerly the Republican governor of Pennsylvania) , announces plans to land a man on the moon before 1990. In response, while they make no official announcement, the British Ministry of pace holds an emergency meeting to plan their own landing on the moon.
The people of the British Empire react to the news with jingoistic excitement, seeing the entire thing as a delightful contest. The Times runs a widely read editorial entitled May the Best Man Win. The New York Times answers with an editorial entitled Indeed, My Good Fellow.
President Fitzsimmons and Imperial Prime Minister Robert Curtis (Liberal MIP of Manchester) hold a conference in Quebec. Among other business, they sign a secret treaty agreeing that each may pursue nuclear technology but neither may pursue nuclear weapons.
Construction of the Brunel Bridge between Scotland and Ireland commences.
The Bonn Treaty comes into effect, creating the European Free Trade Area, eliminating trade barriers and establishing a common trade and currency policy. Despite French arguments, the treaty is entirely economic in nature and imposes no political integration. To calm French irritation, however, EFTA is headquartered in Paris, along with the European Continental Bank.
In Formosa, ethnic Chinese (who still make up a substantial majority of the population despite steady Japanese immigration) engage in protect marches at news of the expansion of Japanese military bases. China causes a diplomatic ruckus by issuing a statement in solidarity with its “countrymen.”
In the United States, the National Space Agency (NSA) begins the design and construction of massive rockets to carry their spacecraft to the moon. It is termed the Titan program. A similar program in the Empire, with work more or less even divided between research centers in Scotland and India, is termed the Rhodes Initiative, after a sharp-eyed British civil servant recalled a quote from Cecil Rhodes in which he said that he would annex the planets if he could.
In the meantime, the space agencies of both nations continue their manned orbital missions, training astronauts for the future lunar missions.
An influential work of popular history, entitled The Empire the Scots Made, becomes a bestseller in Scotland and Britain in general. By discussing the massively disproportionate influence Scots and people descended from Scots have had over the British Empire, the book contributes to a general pro-Unionist sentiment in Scotland. Many attribute a decline in the popularity of the SNP to the high sales of the book.
In South Africa, the Cape Town Parliament considers a bill put forward by the majority Xhosa League and supported by the Zulu People’s Party, which would require the government to seize white-owned land and redistribute it to poor blacks. It is pointed out that Boers, while making up less than 10% of the population, own nearly two-thirds of the land (largely through their practice of keeping land holdings within families).
The news of the bill causes a firestorm in the Dominion. The Liberal Party and the National Party make a rare common cause to oppose the bill, which they claim would be against Imperial law in any event. Together, using clever parliamentary procedures, they block passage of the bill despite the fact that they are in the minority, but the Xhosa League and the Zulu People’s Party do not give up.
Much concern is raised in France over the publication of a government report indicating that more money is spent on the defense of the semi-autonomous territories in Indochina than is received from those territories.
King Andrew dies of natural causes. Robert, Prince of Wales, is immediately proclaimed His Britannic Majesty Robert I, By the Grace of God King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, King of Ireland and the British Dominions Beyond the Sea, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India. His two-year-old daughter, Victoria, is proclaimed Princess of Wales.
Some in Scotland object to the term Robert I, insisting that he should be known as Robert IV, following the three Roberts of the Scottish royal line. The current naming conventions obviously favor the notion that the royalty of England took over Scotland, rather than the true situation, which was that the two countries merged. Despite the ruckus, no change is made.
In Canadian elections, many are surprised as the National Party of Quebec take many seats in the Canadian Parliament. While not espousing secession, their platform calls for French to be made co-equal with English as an official language and other such cultural policies.
Within weeks of one another, the United States and the British Empire launch unmanned versions of their enormous rockets. Both perform well. Both space agencies are hard at work developing the necessary hardware for a manned lunar landing. The public of both nations keeps track of developments with rapt attention.
A military coup takes place in Turkey, installing a government of radical Islamists called the Army of Islam. The new government begins to institute elements of hard-line Sharia law, issues threatening statements about Greece and states its intention to spread its view of Islam throughout the Muslim world.
The Arab League is horrified and immediately condemn the coup. It has no sympathy with the radical brand of Islam espoused by the Turks and considers such things a danger to the prosperity of the region. The Greeks beef up their forces along the Turkish border. The British, keeping a watchful eye, dispatch a carrier battle group to the Eastern Mediterranean.
A severe economic downturn hits China, causing large-scale unemployment.
In South Africa, the Xhosa League and the Zulu People’s Party are able to pass the Restitution Law, which gives the government the power to seize white lands and redistribute them to poor blacks. The result is a good deal of violence in the countryside, as blacks attempt to take the farms of white landowners by force. Many are killed as Boers farmers defend their lands by force, often using hired black mercenaries.
The Liberal Party immediately launches an appeal to the Privy Council in London, claiming that the law is unconstitutional. The appeal is fast-tracked and quickly arrives at the conclusion that the act is, indeed, against Imperial law.
Everyone now waits to see whether the Xhosa League and the Zulu People’s Party will accept the verdict of the Privy Council or openly defy Imperial law. In secret, the Committee on Imperial Defense makes contingency plans to dispatch troops to South Africa in the event that law and order break down.
In March, the Xhosa League and the Zulu People’s Party issue a statement saying that, while they deplore the decision, they will abide by it. Most of the violence in the countryside subsides shortly thereafter. The incident is viewed by the public as an example of the effectiveness of the rule of law in the British Empire.
The incident also has a substantial impact on how the Boer population sees the Empire. Previously, opinion polls always indicated that the majority of Boers saw the Empire as hostile to their interests. Following the Privy Council’s decision, this trend begins to reverse.
In Turkey, the rhetoric of the Islamist government, particularly its stated desire to recover Constantinople, raise tensions with the Greeks. There are numerous border skirmishes, most of which go badly for the Turks, particularly as the Greeks are receiving steady shipments of Imperial weapons and ammunition. On the other hand, the inability of the Islamists to govern effectively means that public support for their government decreases rapidly.
The Race to the Moon continues. When an American Titan rocket explodes during a test launch, revealing substantial technical flaws, the British public crows with glee. However, the British program is also behind schedule. Neither side is certain whether it will emerge as the victor and both are attempting to balance speed with safety as they press ahead with their efforts.
In Samarkand, in Russian Central Asia, several students are arrested after holding an ad hoc meeting in which they called on the university to offer classes in Uzbek as well as Russian. Shortly thereafter, their bullet-ridden bodies are discovered in a sewer. Convinced that they had been executed by the Russian secret police (the Oprichniki), a large crowd of townspeople spontaneously hold a mass protest, which turns into a anti-Russian riot. Order is soon restored by the arrival of Russian army units, which slaughtered dozens of Uzbeks in brutal street fighting.
Despite Russian efforts to prevent it, video of the events is smuggled out of the country and is shown on Western television. There is widespread condemnation of the Russians, although the Western powers refrain from any serious action. The nations of the Arab League, closely allied to (some say dominated by) the British Empire, pass a resolution declaring the Russian Empire “the enemy of Islam.”
In response to the incident, and a wish on the part of the Empire to solidify ties with the Arab world, the Imperial Defense Committee creates a secret subcommittee to study the feasibility of supporting separatist movements in Russian Central Asia.
A United States spacecraft successfully leaves Earth orbit, transverses the space between Earth and the Moon, and enters lunar orbit for a day before successfully returning to the Earth. The British public are despondent, now believing that the race to land a man on the Moon has been all but lost. The British Ministry of Astronautics makes no comment.
The British West African Oil Company, based in Nigeria, now provides a third of the petroleum needs of the Empire (Canada provides another third, the Middle East most of the rest).
In response to the preaching of a radical cleric, who inveighed against all non-Muslims, a medium-sized coalition of Afghan tribes makes raids into the Northwest Frontier. They are beaten off by Indian troops, who are assisted by a regular British infantry regiment (the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) which happened to be on rotating duty at that time. While not particularly important, the incident receives much press attention and two soldiers win the Victoria Cross.
A Rhodes rocket launches a British crew on what initially seems to be a mission similar to the recent American mission. However, while the spacecraft is in route to the Moon, the British Ministry of Astronautics announces that it will not simply go into lunar orbit but will attempt to land on the surface. A shocked world holds its breath for the next few days, until news arrives that Australian Charles Huxley (a member of the famous Huxley family) has become the first man to walk on the Moon. Two other crewman join him on the surface, Murad Janangir of India (whose name, it is noted, means “Conqueror of the World”) and Lawrence Calvert of England. Several days later, the crew safely returns to the Earth.
The British Ministry of Astronautics receives much criticism for foregoing the planned orbital mission in favor of the landing, the argument being that they were gambling with the lives of the astronauts simply to beat the Americans. The public, however, mocks the criticism, considering the bold move an example of “the Imperial spirit.” The Americans, for their part, are sportsmanlike losers, issuing a statement of congratulations.
At the Cavendish Laboratory, an experimental nuclear reactor proves the feasibility of generating electrical power with nuclear reactions. Despite the immense economic potential, the news is kept rather quiet (though it is not officially classified), due to the continuing fears of a nation attempting to use the technology for military purposes.
Alex Reed, the Mayor of New York and a notoriously maverick Democrat, declares that Wall Street will one day surpass the City of London as the world’s leading financial center. Financial analysts dismiss this as nonsensical, as New York remains a distant second-place and the foreign investment of the Empire continues to exceed that of the United States by a healthy margin. The Mayor’s remarks are considered mere grandstanding as he prepares to run for Governor of New York, or perhaps the presidency itself.
A debate in the Imperial Defense Committee rages around whether to send covert support to separatists in Russian Central Asia. While contingency planning continue, it is determined that it would be foolish to do anything which might provoke the Russians, as a conflict with the Russian Empire is not in the British Empire’s interest.
In early spring, to universal shock, it is discovered that a massive amount of oil exists under the North Sea between Scotland and Norway. Almost overnight, British financiers line up to fund operations designed to extract it. The price of oil noticeably drops.
In contrast to the good fortune of the British, the Americans are facing increasing difficulties with oil. In order to maintain steady economic growth, the United States is importing an increasing amount of oil from overseas, as their own domestic production has begun declining. While Mexico and Venezuela provide the bulk of imports, much is also coming from Canada, pouring American money into Imperial coffers.
The Islamist government in Turkey is overthrown by a popular uprising. The military, which refused government orders to put down the unrest, takes control, although it promises free elections in the near future.
Three follow-up expeditions to the Moon are mounted by the British, while the Americans land two expeditions themselves. With the Race to the Moon over, discussions are being held between the two space powers regarding possible cooperation in future exploratory activities.
The Europeans and the Japanese, seeing British and American successes in manned spaceflight, begin considering whether to increase their own level of space activity, which has been limited to unmanned scientific, telecommunications, military of weather-prediction projects.
Manchuria declares its independence from China, which is immediately recognized by Japan. China calls on Britain to use it influence with Japan to intervene, but it declines to do so, aside from accepting Japanese assurances that Manchuria will not become a Japanese puppet state. To compensate the Chinese, however, Britain signs a more favorable trade treaty, as well as an agreement in which the British Empire will guarantee the territorial integrity of the remainder of China.
Russia protests the independence of Manchuria but takes no action, remaining fearful of the Japanese-British alliance.
Construction of vast oil rigs in the North Sea is now underway, the majority of the work being done by the massive corporation, Imperial Oil. The SNP launches a political campaign claiming that North Sea oil belongs to Scotland, but this has little impact.
According to trade figures, this year marks the first time that Britain imported more wine from Australia, New Zealand and South African than from France. The Imperial Wine Association celebrates, while the French fume.
King Robert makes a royal visit to Canada, during which he spends much time in Quebec. Fluent in French, he address the Quebecoise assembly in their native language, espousing the continued unity of the Dominion of Canada. While many object to the King openly declaring his political beliefs in such a direct manner, the visit is considered a great success. In particular, the people of Quebec are enamored by the seven-year-old Princess Victoria, who speaks to the local press in childish French about her favorite ice cream and other such subjects.
The success of the royal visit to Canada causes the Imperial Government to pay more attention to the potential public relations uses of the Monarchy and to plan more extensive royal visits.
After six years, the Brunel Bridge is completed, establishing a physical link between Britain and Ireland. The event is celebrated by a massive parade over the bridge.
The Center for Islamic Studies in the University of Algiers begins producing a series of influential studies on the relationship between Islam and modernity, describing how the relaxed French rule over its Muslim territories, as well as British influence over the Middle East, allowed for the concept of separation of religion and government to germinate in the Islamic world, to the great benefit of the people. The failure of the Islamist government in Turkey is described as a cautionary tale to those who would seek to unify religion and government.
A newly-elected right-wing government in Argentina issues a statement of protest regarding the refueling of Royal Navy vessels at their base in the Falkland Islands, claiming that the islands are Argentine territory. The Royal Navy, rather amused by this, immediately dispatches a larger-than-usual patrol force to refuel at the Falklands Island base. Behind the scenes, promoted by the Imperial government, many British companies threaten to withdraw their investments from Argentina unless the matter is dropped. No further mention of the issue is heard from the Argentines thereafter.
The Times writes a sarcastic editorial in response, deploring the Argentine back-down. The editorial suggests that it would have been entertaining to see a naval conflict between a navy that consisted of one cruiser, three destroyers and four frigates and a navy that consisted of eleven aircraft carriers, six battleships, 24 cruisers, 87 destroyers and 104 frigates. The crew of the newly-launched aircraft carrier, the Alfred the Great, also lodge an “official protest” against Argentina for backing down and ruining their chance for “fun.”
Russia accuses the British Empire of supporting Islamic separatists in Central Asia. The British immediately issue a statement denying this. While neither side makes any change in their military posture, but Imperial Defense Committee is alarmed by the aggressiveness of the Russian diplomatic statements. Reports are also surfacing of increased Russian espionage activity in the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan.
The De Beers Corporation announces that, henceforth, at least 25% of its administrative workforce will be composed of black Africans.
Her Majesty’s Special Intelligence Service (HMSIS) begins a large-scale counterintelligence operation against Russian agents in the Middle East and Central Asia. Later on, historians would view this as the beginning of the “Second Great Game.”
In India, a debate erupts in the Lok Sabha over universal education standards. The Muslim League, which has long championed local control over educational institutions, believes that an India-wide curriculum would threaten the cultural identity of Indian Muslims. Of further concern is the proposal that the standards include British history. One prominent Muslim League spokesman declares in a widely-quoted speech, “Why should a Calcutta schoolchild learn about Henry VIII?”
The first oil from the North Sea enters the market, causing prices to decline substantially. With direct control over production in the North Sea, Canada and West Africa, and with indirect control over production in the Middle East, the British Empire has a virtual stranglehold on the world’s oil supply. Europe, Japan and the United States are heavily dependent on imports, although Russia can easily meet its needs from domestic production.
The decline of oil prices hits the economies of Middle Eastern nations hard. Members of the upcoming generation of the Arab elite, largely educated in Britain or at the University of Jerusalem, believe that diversifying the economy of the Middle East is critical for the long-term stability of the region.
The New York Times runs a series of articles describing the economic competition in South America between the United States and the British Empire. The two countries compete closely for investment in South American economies and in successfully opening markets for their exports. Neither side seems to have much of an edge over the other. The articles also go to pains to describe friendly joint-projects between British and American companies.
Singapore surpasses Rotterdam as the world’s largest port. Most of Singapore’s business involves processing imports from China and Japan, which are then re-exported to other parts of the British Empire. Another source in income for Singapore’s economy is the fact that it serves as the base for Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet (it is the second largest Royal Navy base after Portsmouth).
A massive accounting scandal leads to the collapse of the largest Lisbon bank. Economic instability hits Portugal.
The University of Baghdad closes its theology department, citing a lack of enrollment and few qualified professors. On the other hand, enrollment is increasing in its business and technology departments.
There is a slight increase in “banditry” along the Northwest Frontier. Similarly, illegal kidnappings and thievery seem to be on the increase in northern Iraq and northwestern Persia.
The dynamic President of the French Republic, Jacques-Louis Giraudoux, takes office with a determination to forge the European Free Trade Area into a political bloc. He also seeks closer ties with the British Empire, and in his first major speech proposes the construction of a Channel tunnel to link Calais and Dover. A committee is created in the Imperial Parliament to study the matter.
A joint British-American outpost is now in place on the Moon, with crews alternating every six months. Independently, the British are considering sending a manned expedition to Mars, although the logistical and technical challenges are immense.
Russia is flooding the arms markets of Afghanistan, Kurdistan and northwestern Persia with cheaply-produced small arms, greatly increasing violence in those largely lawless regions. Many British soldiers are killed in skirmishes with tribes on the Northwest Frontier. Appeals to the Afghan government are met with the response that it lacks the strength to bring order to the region across the border from the Raj.
Rumors circulate that Portugal is considering selling its African colonies in order to reduce its overseas commitments and raise enough money to close its immense budget deficit.
The Royal Navy terminates its research effort into nuclear ship propulsion. They have concluded that, while technically feasible, building a nuclear reactor to power a vessel would be far too expensive to be justifiable.
The newly-elected right-of-center Japanese government passes a series of education reforms for Formosa, including a requirement that schoolchildren be taught in the Japanese language. This leads to large-scale protests by the people of Formosa. The government refuses to back down, however, and is even considering placing restrictions on broadcasting in Mandarin.
In response to continuing high unemployment, high taxation and runaway inflation, large-scale riots erupt in Cairo. The economic situation is largely due to the fact that Egyptian government officials are far more concerned with making money for themselves than improving the economic situation of the country.
Within a few days, the disorder in Cairo becomes uncontrollable. The Egyptian government requests that British troops in the Suez Canal Zone be sent to Cairo to help restore order. On his own initiative, the British commander in Egypt dispatches three regiments to Cairo (one English, one Indian and one South African). They are able to restore order to the city without significant bloodshed, after which they withdraw again to the Canal Zone.
Many throughout the Arab world decry the British intervention, seeing it as a sign that they are de facto British colonies. With the British Empire already in effective control of the defense and foreign policy of the Arab League, the British “intrusion” into the internal affairs of an Arab state is the cause of much concern, both among intellectuals and among the general population.
The physics departments of several universities throughout the Empire, particularly in Britain and India, express disappointment at the decision by the Royal Navy to terminate nuclear reactor research. An association of various departments is created to conduct the research on their own, the goal being a feasible and economical reactor design within five years. Research into nuclear technology is proceeding at a low level in America and France, while being virtually nonexistent everywhere else.
The harvest if Russia is particularly bad, raising the possibility of a massive famine. The British and Americans offer large shipments of grain at low cost, but Russia declines the offer. Nearly two million people die in the ensuing famine, though the outside world knows little of the situation due to strict Russian media controls.
The Portuguese territory of Mozambique, largely independent for several decades (Portugal retaining control only of foreign affairs and defense), is experiencing a serious economic crisis, brought on by the financial collapse of Portugal, which remains its largest trading partner. Business leaders in the Dominion of South Africa increase their economic activities in the area, hoping to stimulate economic growth.
China lodges an official protest with Japan over the treatment of the “Chinese population” on Formosa. Angrily, the Japanese respond that there are no Chinese on Formosa, referring to the population only as Formosan-Japanese. At the same time, Chinese newspapers are denouncing the regime in Manchuria for being puppets of Japan.
Japan expresses alarm at a substantial increase in Chinese military expenditure, including the purchase of modern fighter aircraft from Britain and the United States. In response, it increases funding for its navy and protests to Britain about the sale of military hardware to China.
To stabilize its shaky economy, Portugal takes a large loan from the Bank of England, secured on its territory in Mozambique. Smaller loans are taken out with a syndicate of private banks, including the Rothschilds and the Barings. Portugal is also seeking an increase in British investment (a conscious decision on the part of the British to assist the Portuguese). Mozambique and Angola similarly are enjoying an increase in investment from the African Dominions. Many in Europe disapprove of the increasing British influence over a European state and worry that Mozambique is soon to become a part of the British Empire.
The Arab League holds a meeting on the subject of Imperial Preference. While technically not part of the British Empire, the Arabs consider the substantial British influence in their region as justification for inclusion in the British economic sphere. A delegation is sent to the Imperial Parliament requesting that trade barriers between the League and the Empire be lifted, effectively making the League an economic part of the Empire. With up-and-coming Arab leaders seeking to diversify their economies, they are eager to find markets for exporting their products and thus reduce their dependence on the export of oil.
Tipped off by British intelligence, Arabia arrests a number of .Islamic fundamentalists who were planning on assassinating the Hashemite royal family. Evidence is subsequently discovered indicating that Russia was involved in the conspiracy, but this is not made public for diplomatic reasons.
The rejection of an Indian Muslim student to Oxford University after he had failed the British history portion of the entrance exam becomes a cause célèbreamong Indian Muslims. In the Lok Sabha, the Muslim League introduces a measure protesting to the university, which is unanimously voted down by the other parties.
A large-scale summit is held in Cairo between a delegation from the Arab League and a delegation from the Imperial Parliament. At issue are the economic, military and political relations between the Arab League and the British Empire. At the conclusion of the summit, the Treaty of Cairo is signed.
The treaty does two important things. Firstly, it reforms the structure of the Arab League from that of a loose federation into a much stronger federation, with a parliament that will sit in Jeddah and a unified military. Secondly, it establishes a “permanent alliance” between the League and the Empire, based on the “mutual respect and admiration between the British and Arab monarchies.” Included in the treaty are economic agreements that effectively bring the Arab League into the system of Imperial Preference.
The treaty is approved with surprisingly little controversy by the Arab League and the Imperial Parliament.
In Asia, after much saber-rattling, Japan bans the broadcasting of Mandarin in Formosa. This leads to large-scale protests by the Chinese population, the extent of which takes the Japanese by surprise. A massive protest march in Taipei is fired on by Japanese troops, leaving over a hundred civilians dead.
China recalls its ambassador from Japan. Before leaving, the ambassador issues a demand that the Chinese population in Formosa be granted equal rights. Japan dismisses the request, saying that China have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of Japan. On June 24, China declares war on Japan.
Chinese and Manchuria troops immediately engage in fierce encounters along their respective border, but neither side makes a determined push against the other. The Chinese had not properly prepared for a conflict before issuing their declaration of war. In the meantime, Japanese air and ground units begin to arrive in Manchuria to shore up the defenses of their rather shaky ally. Both the Chinese and Japanese launch air raids against one another’s cities, but they remain limited for the time being and the Chinese discovery quickly that Japan’s air defenses are strong.
The world watches with concern. The Royal Navy reinforces the Far East Fleet at Singapore, while Russia sends several divisions to the Far East and prepares for any eventualities. The British make it clear to the Japanese that they expect the Japanese military to stay away from the Hong Kong area. At the same time, however, the Imperial Parliament votes to cease selling military equipment to the Chinese.
To deal with the increase in bandit attacks along the Northwest Frontier, the Indian Army (along with resident British regiments) begins a series of sweeps deep into Afghanistan to seek and destroy the bandit clans before they can launch raids into British territory. While largely unnoticed in the press (fixated on the Sino-Japanese War), these engagements are seen by much of the military establishment as a means to gain experience and recognition.
With a large numerical advantage, the Chinese advance into Manchuria begins to gain momentum, even though observers consider Japanese units substantially more effective than their Chinese counterparts. In response, Japan steps up its air and naval raids against China and begins construction of a massive chain of fortifications to protect the Korean peninsula. The Japanese, without making any formal guarantees, stay out of the Hong Kong area, despite the fact that this allows a steady flow of trade in and out of China via Canton.
Bangalore in India is chosen as the site for the Nuclear Reactor Project (NRP), the goal of which is to produce a reactor capable of economically generating electricity for commercial use. It is hoped that the reactor design will be completed within five years and that commercial reactors begin coming online shortly thereafter.
Many in the British government object to the reactor project, pointing out that the British Empire controls a substantial portion of the world’s oil reserves and that creating a new energy source would be to the Empire’s strategic disadvantage. The counter argument usually offered is that the new technology will be developed sooner or later anyway and that it would be better for it to be under the control of the British than anyone else.
After a more radical faction takes control of the party, the National Party of Quebec alters its manifesto and calls for Quebec to be granted the status of an independent Dominion within the British Empire.
British investment in Portuguese African territories continues to gather pace.
After a year of Chinese success, Japanese and Manchurian resistance stiffens. Air and naval raids continue to punish China severely.
In September, using an anti-ship missile, a Japanese strike aircraft sinks a British-flagged freighter as it approached Hong Kong. While most of the crew escaped, about a dozen people perished. The vessel had been carrying industrial machinery destined for China, not strictly of military use but easily adaptable for it.
Britain immediately demands an apology from Japan, punishment of the pilot and officers responsible, restitution to the survivors and a declared pledge that the Japanese armed forces will not undertake operations south of Formosa. To back up the demands, elements of the Royal Navy sail from Portsmouth and Bombay to reinforce the Pacific Fleet at Singapore.
Japan, which had launched the attack as a test of British will and to pressure the British to stop trade with China, is taken aback by the British response. They declare that the attack was a mistake and that the pilot will be punished. They also declare that they will pay compensation. But they refuse to set any official limits on their military actions, and they state that they will only pay financial compensation if the British naval buildup at Singapore ceases.
When word of this reaches the public, there is a feeling of rage throughout the British Empire. One of the first responses of the Imperial is the lifting of the arms embargo on China. Almost immediately, a flood of British arms flows into China through Hong Kong, particularly air defense missiles and guns. Almost immediately, Japanese air raids against China begin suffering heavier losses and their effectiveness is much reduced.
The crisis continues through the end of the year.
The Imperial Parliament, after a long debate, approves the construction of a Channel Tunnel between Dover and Calais. A joint British-French commission is appointed to oversee the project, with funding equally split between the two sides. The public views the project with ambivalence.
In Afghanistan, British and Indian intelligence agents are able to thwart an assassination plot against the Afghan king. Russian agents are found to be responsible, feeling that the king was too permissive of British raids into his territory in pursuit of bandit tribes. The result is a rise of anti-Russian feeling in Afghanistan, as well as a more friendly attitude towards the British.
In Paris, representatives of the members of the European Free Trade Area meet to discuss the formation of a genuine political bloc. In recent years, such an idea has been gaining popularity, largely due to the leadership of French President Jacques-Louis Giraudoux.
The lifting of the British arms embargo on China has inflamed Japanese opinion against the British Empire, while the continued refusal of the Japanese to limit their military operations and pay restitution for the freighter sinking has further angered popular opinion throughout the Empire.
On March 31, with popular pressure for decisive action immense, the British Empire presents Japan with an ultimatum. In addition to meeting previous demands of paying financial restitution for the freighter sinking, the Japanese must turn the pilot over to the British Empire for a murder trial In addition, far more importantly, the Japanese must cease all military operations against China immediately and submit the “Formosa Question” to an international tribunal.
Despite mounting Chinese successes in Manchuria, due largely to the influx of British military equipment, the Japanese scornfully refuse the British ultimatum. On April 15, the Far East Fleet sails from Singapore northwards towards Formosa. The Japanese Navy, roughly equal in numbers, engages it in the Battle of the South China Sea.
The battle, spread over thousands of square miles of ocean, rages from April 17 to April 20. It is the largest naval battle since the Battle of the North Sea in 1916. When the dust settles, the Royal Navy has lost two aircraft carriers, a battleship and numerous cruisers and destroyers. The Japanese Navy, however, is virtually obliterated.
Within a week, British carriers are mounting small-scale air raids against targets in Japan, avoiding civilian areas. The Chinese continue to gain successes in Manchuria, freed from Japanese air and naval raids and benefiting from British military equipment. At the same time, outright uprisings have begun in Formosa, while many Manchurian military units are increasingly dubious in their loyalty to the Japanese.
With Royal Marines preparing for a landing on Formosa, Japan sees little alternative but to sue for peace, which it does on June 1. The Japanese-Imperial War on 1997 is over after a month-and-a-half.
China agrees to the cease-fire only if Japanese forces withdraw from Manchuria entirely. With little alternative, the Japanese commence a pull-back to the Korean peninsula, which is completed by the end of June. China occupies all of Manchuria, simply announcing to the world that Chinese administration of the province has resumed.
By the end of the year, with strong pressure from China, an international committee announces that the people of Formosa will be given the option of holding a referendum on whether to remain part of Japan, become part of China, or be given independence. The referendum is scheduled for January 31 of the following year.
After several months of deliberation, the Treaty of Paris (1997) is signed, established a “European Council” with representatives from all members of the European Free Trade Area. The objective of the European Council is to establish “a European consensus in political and defense matters,” although its powers are intentionally left quite vague.
The victory of the British Empire over Japan results in increased economic confidence that the Empire will dominate the economy of Asia. Consequently, the stock markets of London significantly outpace those of America and Europe for 1997.
Russia, disturbed by the example of British power projection into the Far East, initiates a policy of maintaining a powerful naval fleet at Vladivostok, while reinforcing their land forces along the border with China.
In the wake of the defeat at the hands of the British and the incorporation of their ally Manchuria into China, the Japanese government collapsed and new elections bring a more moderate faction to power. The new Japanese government pledges “better relations” with the Empire and the rest of the world. At the same time, however, it opens secret negotiations with the Russians for a possible anti-British alliance, and the Japanese navy begins a program of rebuilding its strength while developing new tactics and technology.
In Canada, elections result in a hung parliament, with the National Party of Quebec holding the balance of power. It demands a referendum on Quebecoise independence as a requirement for joining any coalition government, which both the Canadian Conservative and the Canadian Liberals refuse (particularly as a large faction of the National Party are now calling for complete independence from the Empire, rather than status as a Dominion separate from the rest of Canada). Negotiations lead nowhere, as no side appeared willing to give way.
As the political crisis drags on, the media begins asking why King Robert does not appoint a minority government. In truth, he is frozen by indecisiveness. The Conservatives and Liberals are literally tied in the number of seats they hold. King Robert personally favors Conservative positions, but fears that he will be accused of personal bias if he appoints a Conservative minority government. But he is also loath to appoint a Liberal-lead government. As the crisis drags on into its second month, the public are increasingly frustrated with the King.
The King flies to Ottawa and attempts to persuade the Conservative and Liberals to form a coalition government until new elections can be held. They refuse to do so, both parties being confident that they will end up as a minority government. Eventually, the King appoints a Conservative minority government, stunning the Liberals.
This constitutional crisis is a severe blow to the prestige of the monarchy in Canada and, indirectly, in many other Dominions. King Robert is seen as allowing his personal conservative biases to interfere with his constitutional duties. The King becomes sullen and depressed.
Construction begins on the Channel Tunnel.
King Robert dies, from what is publicly-stated as a heart attack. In truth, he is found by his staff to have swallowed several sleeping pills after having spent the day reading newspaper editorials throughout the Empire denouncing him. Only nine people are aware of the true cause of death, and the Lord Chamberlain swears them to secrecy.
His nineteen-year-old daughter is immediately declared Her Britannic Majesty Victoria II, By the Grace of God Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Queen of Ireland and the British Dominions Beyond the Sea, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India. She is told of the true cause of her father’s death, and personally worries greatly over her ability to meet her obligations.
The Imperial public respond with a measure of guilt, and many in the media speculate that his “heart attack” (the story successfully fools nearly everyone) was brought on by stress deriving from the King’s treatment by the people after the Canadian constitutional crisis. Queen Victoria begins her reign with a great deal of public sympathy and support.
The Japanese Emperor and the Russian Czar hold a much-publicized and cordial meeting on Russian and Japanese warships in the Sea of Japan. At the same time, British intelligence is reporting disturbing rise in contacts between Russian and Japanese military and intelligence officials.
In response to the increasing closeness of Russia and Japan, a committee of the Imperial Parliament discusses whether to seek closer ties with Europe or America. After a few months of meeting behind closed doors, it is determined that the best course for the Empire would be to remain aloof from other great powers. Officially, the only allies of the British Empire remain China, Greece and the Arab League (the latter being a de facto part of the Empire).
In India, the Nuclear Reactor Project successfully demonstrates the feasibility of generating electricity from nuclear fission reactions. In testimony before the Economic Development Committee of the Imperial Parliament, the leaders of the project claim that the technology could supply all the Empire’s power needs within fifty years.
By the end of the year, companies have applied for licenses to construct nuclear reactors in India, Britain and Australia. At the same time, other nations have begun investing in nuclear power research, unwilling to allow the British to develop a lock on the technology.
Russia and Japan sign a secret treaty, pledging to support one another in any future conflict with the British Empire. One provision of the treaty requires Russia to cancel its program of naval buildup in Asia, so the Russians begin to direct their naval construction on the Baltic and Arctic Seas. At the same time, Russian and Japanese intelligence agents are cooperating in undermining British influence in China.
To resolve its continuing fiscal difficulties, Portugal agrees to a transfer of its African territories (along with Macau in China) to the British Empire in exchange for a hefty payment of billions of pounds and extensive trade concessions. Portugal, in effect, is allowed into the system of Imperial Preference, making it a part of the British Empire economically, though not politically. This change is no much noticed in the formerly-Portuguese African possessions, as they had economically been British in all but name for some time.
Millennium celebration are held throughout the world. British newspapers run editorials about “Two Centuries of British Glory.” With the recent victory over Japan, control over the world’s main oil supplies and a near-monopoly on the developing nuclear power industry, most commentators see no possibility that the British Empire will not remain the world’s dominant power for centuries to come.
Others aren’t so sure.